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Want a big crowd at the Prime Minister's XI? Forget Twenty20, we need star players

The Prime Minister's XI shifted to cricket's most exciting format, but the Canberra crowd hasn't bought in.

It doesn't matter whether it is a one-day game or a Twenty20 — this game needs star players.

Only once in the past decade has the PM's XI crowd figure exceeded 10,000. The PM's XI's first Twenty20 match had drawn just 5484 by the time the first ball was bowled. The official crowd figure grew to 7120.

It's always a given that the PM's XI squad will feature a few names most people haven't heard much about, and that was amplified this season after two of the biggest drawcards in George Bailey and James Pattinson were withdrawn in the lead-up.

The schedule didn't help. The annual fixture was tacked on to the end of a busy summer of cricket, and two separate Australian sides are currently preparing to play international games.

Australia's Test players are already preparing for a Test tour of India, and a number of the next best are all gearing up for a series against Sri Lanka beginning on Friday night in Melbourne.

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Next season is shaping in similar fashion with the Prime Minister's XI facing England on February 2, just a day before the international Twenty20 series begins.

It begs the question — where does the future of the Prime Minister's XI lie?

Being stuck between two international series doesn't bode well, with the crowded schedule leaving the PM's XI in danger of losing all relevance.

Canberra will not host an international fixture next summer, but could host a Big Bash League game as supplement content with the competition expanding to 40 matches for the 2017-18 season.

However, that doesn't do much to aid the future of the PM's XI.

Add in three finals matches and you have 43 BBL games that need to be squeezed between an Ashes series, an ODI series against England and a Twenty20 international tri-series including New Zealand.

If the BBL was to run longer than the 40 days it did this summer, Cricket Australia are in danger of having the tournament clash with the first international T20 against New Zealand on February 3.

That could see the competition's best players ripped out of their BBL teams for the finals. Start the tournament any earlier and it could clash with another Ashes Test.

Australia's best players will be tied up with international duties, and a lengthened BBL tournament could run past the date of the Prime Minister's XI.

That leaves almost no Australian players available for the Canberra match, and potentially no front-line BBL players.

Canberra's future could lie in a BBL game and an international each summer, with Manuka Oval set to host its first Test match in 2018-19.

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