SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 16: Fireworks are seen over the ground at the innings break during the T20 Big Bash League match between the Sydney Sixers and the Brisbane Heat at Sydney Cricket Ground on December 16, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Today's triple-header in the Big Bash League is a much needed boost for the league which has been struggling in recent times.

Today's action will see all eyes on up to seven Test players who make their return to the BBL, as well as the stakes for each side looking to lock in the make up of the finals series.

At its best, the BBL's average attendance per match was hovering around 30,000 between 2015-2017, propelling it to among the highest-attended sports leagues in the world.

But now interest in the BBL has plummeted, with several talking points on how the league lost its way.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16: Callum Ferguson of the Melbourne Renegades fields during the Big Bash League match between the Adelaide Strikers and the Melbourne Renegades at Adelaide Oval on January 16, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Too many games

The BBL currently has 61 fixtures over a two-month period. Games are played nearly every night across the country, with rare allowances for a 'night off', which are granted when international games are on or if Christmas gets in the way.

Current Melbourne Stars and Australian bowler Adam Zampa summarised the view of several players, stating the league drags on.

“Big Bash used to be a great time, a very good time, and unfortunately with the world as it is at the moment, it’s getting a lot harder, the season’s probably too long, and it definitely feels like it’s dragging on again," Zampa said.

In 2016-17 there were 35 games, before jumping to 43 in 2017-18, 59 in 2018-19 and 61 games in the 2019-20 season.

Reports dating back to 2019 indicated broadcasters warned the non-stop and extended nature of the competition could make it go 'stale'.

Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting forecast the overload that 14 games per side in a condensed time period would pose for the competition.

“I just think 14 games is just a little bit much. It just makes for a very long tournament and probably goes for a touch too long," he said when the change to 61 games was made in 2019.

As the amount of games increases, the value of each match is reduced, and 14 games per side does not seem to strike the balance. For comparison, the Indian Premier League, the most lucrative cricket league in the world, plays host to 14 games per side.

Room for a 'Footified' Fixture

Radical changes to the BBL fixture could be on the cards in order to revitalise the narrative of the competition.

In the BBL's infancy, each team played each other once, with one extra "double-up" fixture left for marquee games such as the Sydney and Melbourne derbies.

Brisbane Heat batter Joe Burns took to Twitter to suggest reverting to the eight-game model with some adjustments, including weekly rounds.

This would not be different from what works across the football codes in winter, increasing the build-up and anticipation leading in to each weekend and marking a clear distinction between rounds.

The major hurdle for 'footifying' the fixture is discerning which part of the calendar should play host to the revamped league, with a change in priorities probably required.

Burns said that it would allow for Sheffield Shield games during the week, addressing the old adage of scheduling the Shield by virtue of plugging holes in the calendar.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20: Joe Burns of the Heat hits the ball over the boundary for a six during the Big Bash League match between the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Renegades at The Gabba on January 20, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

A weekend fixture (ie non-school/work days) could also see a detachment from an obsession to have the competition occupy every night of the school holidays. Many games end past 10pm which is hardly kid-friendly anyway.

The one round per week model would also give CA the opportunity to play the BBL as a standalone competition, leverage their own international summer and allow international players to be available for the BBL. It opens up more flexibility with when to schedule the eight-week block.

While it would result in fewer games, key stakeholders including broadcasters may welcome the reduction as it reduces production costs and increases the value of the remaining games. But with two broadcasters in Fox Cricket and Seven, neither are likely to want to reduce matches relative to each other.

DRS missing in action

The BBL is plagued with mediocre umpiring. Poor decisions are made regularly.

It undermines the credibility of the league and implementing a decision review system (DRS) should be revisited, despite potentially prolonging the length of games.

The BBL was due to implement DRS this season, but Covid-19 border closures left it too complicated to introduce this summer.

Under the plan, Cricket Australia were prepared to bring four times as many DRS units into Australia for the BBL as they would for the international schedule.

The plan never eventuated due to Covid-19, but needs to be reinstated as soon as possible.

Maximise availability of international players

Today's triple-header will see a suite of Australian Test players return to domestic T20 cricket, and with it a heightened interest in the BBL.

Nathan Lyon will be action for the Sydney Sixers, while Scott Boland is expected to line up for the Hobart Hurricances. Marnus Labuschagne returns to the already eliminated Brisbane Heat, Jhye Richardson to the Perth Scorchers and Usman Khawaja to the Sydney Thunder.

The Adelaide Strikers will be boosted by the return of Travis Head, while Alex Carey will be available for the finals series.

The most immediate impact on the league would be to maximise the availability of international players (Australian and overseas) for a greater chunk of the BBL through an adjusted schedule. Most Australian Test players belong to a BBL list, but remain unavailable during Test series.

Having access to quality international players is thought to increase the quality of cricket played, and inject goodwill into the competition immediately by starring players with whom fans can identify.

As for overseas players, each franchise is allowed to recruit a maximum of six foreign players, but only three may play in each match and there is scope to increase the overseas talent permitted.

The league is also struggling to replicate cult heroes of the past, and is experiencing a lull in outgoing Australian players who play in the BBL post-retirement.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 01: Brad Hogg of the Renegades appeals successfully to dismiss Sam Harper of the Stars during the Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades at Melbourne Cricket Ground on January 1, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: Mitchell Johnson of the Scorchers acknowledges the members after his first over during the Big Bash League match between the Perth Scorchers and the Melbourne Stars at the WACA on January 24, 2017 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Admittedly, the BBL has Covid-19 restrictions to navigate, but the newly invented pool of neutral players hardly does any favours to the optics of the BBL's player quality.