Sport

Cricket ACT bosses keen for slice of Big Bash League revolution in Canberra

Cricket ACT officials have thrown open the door to the Big Bash revolution, declaring they want to be a part of the competition's expansion and Manuka Oval is ready for Twenty20 action as early as the end of 2016.

Cricket Australia is expected to capitalise on the rapid growth on the BBL fan base by extending the length of next season, paving the way for Canberra, Geelong and the Gold Coast to become venues.

Cricket ACT is keen to work with the Sydney Thunder to bring Big Bash games to Canberra.
Cricket ACT is keen to work with the Sydney Thunder to bring Big Bash games to Canberra. Photo: Bradley Kanaris

Just days after more than 80,000 fans crammed into the MCG for a Big Bash derby, Canberra's stakeholders are keen to engage with the Sydney Thunder about hosting matches in the capital in the coming season.

The ultimate goal remains to have a Canberra team in the competition. But Cricket Australia has put expansion plans on the back-burner for the coming years to consolidate Twenty20's growth.

Manuka Oval hosted the 2014-15 Big Bash final between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers.
Manuka Oval hosted the 2014-15 Big Bash final between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers. Photo: Melissa Adams

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr was in Sydney on Tuesday to meet with Cricket Australia, as Canberra edges closer to a historic first Test.

But news of potential Big Bash fixtures at Manuka Oval will spark just as much excitement almost 12 months after hosting the competition's final.

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Any matches could also double as auditions for Canberra's hopes of having its own team in the future.

"We spoke to the Sydney Thunder about having a trial in Canberra [for the 2015-16 season]. Our long-term goal is that we want to have a Big Bash team in the city," said Cricket ACT boss Cameron French.

"We know that the initial expansion is going to be additional games and we'd be very keen to talk to the Thunder about having a BBL round at Manuka if the expansion goes ahead.

"That starts to prove the product and show that Canberra has a crowd that could support its own team."

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland confirmed on Tuesday that South Africa would have a Test series in Australia to start the 2016-17 summer with Pakistan to play the Boxing Day and New Year Tests.

Canberra remains in contention to host its first Test, with poor crowds at Hobart and Perth for West Indies and New Zealand matches threatening their status as host venues.

Former Cricket Tasmania chairman and Cricket Australia director Tony Harrison slammed Canberra officials as "fat-cat bureaucrats" last month as speculation mounted Manuka Oval will replace Hobart on the calendar.

The Test schedule would have been on the agenda when Barr met with Cricket Australia officials and there are also plans to build a high-performance training centre at Phillip in the next two years.

The ACT government has a four-year deal to have Manuka Oval host either a one-day international or a T20 international featuring the Australian team every summer until 2018-19.

The Big Bash has captured Australia's attention while crowds dwindle at Tests involving the struggling West Indies.

French said every time international cricket came to Canberra was a chance to prove Manuka Oval's big-match credentials.

Australia will play India at the picturesque oval on January 20.

"Each time the cricket community supports an event, Cricket Australia recognises that," French said.

"People are voting with their feet. The success of the Big Bash will maybe see them look to expand sooner rather than later, starting with games rather then teams.

"Once the business model stacks up, they'll look to add sides. Our view is that we've got to continue to put our best foot forward."