Cricket Australia is scrambling to arrange another bushfire relief match, having scrapped Saturday’s all-star contest at the SCG because of forecast heavy rain. The charity fund-raising game, involving teams captained by greats Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting, was slated to be played as a curtain-raiser for Saturday’s BBL final.
But CA, confronted with a forecast of some 30-55mm of rain in Sydney on Saturday, is now considering several contingency options. The governing body, having cancelled the game in an effort to give Saturday’s BBL final the best possible chance of proceeding, is expected to provide an update on Thursday afternoon.
The most likely outcome is that an alternative game will take place in Melbourne on Sunday but there are a lot of logistical hurdles that must be cleared. And there is the prospect of rain in Melbourne on Sunday, although not nearly as much as that forecast for Sydney.
The Australian women’s team, preparing for the home Twenty20 World Cup that starts later this month, are playing games on Saturday and Sunday at Melbourne’s Junction Oval but that venue has a capacity of just 7,000. The MCG will be vacant, although the cost of setting up separate broadcast arrangements at both venues on short notice would be immense.
The most obvious challenge is that the charity game features several commentators from both Fox Sports and the Seven Network, with Warne and Ponting headlining not only the bushfire-relief XIs but their respective network’s BBL coverage.
Early reports suggested the new charity game would be staged in Melbourne on Saturday but the BBL final starts at 7.15pm that night in Sydney. If the charity match were to be played in Victoria on Saturday then both networks’ commentary teams would be depleted for the Big Bash decider, as there almost certainly would not be enough time for them to arrive at the SCG.
Saturday’s T20 between Meg Lanning’s team and India at Junction Oval is slated to start at 12:10pm. It remains unlikely there will be any play at the SCG on Saturday night but broadcasters and CA cannot bank on that scenario.
Some of the sport’s biggest names agreed to play the fundraising fixture, including Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer, Michael Clarke, Wasim Akram and Yuvraj Singh, while Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar and West Indies legend Courtney Walsh signed up to coach the Ponting XI and Warne XI respectively. Moving the game could force some last-minute changes to the squads assembled.