BBL is beginning to hurt Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup, says Shane Watson

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“The BBL is obviously a money-earner and people love watching it, but you’ve got to find the balance so it’s not all in one direction geared to one competition”

Australia all-rounder Shane Watson has admitted that Cricket Australia’s recent decision to extend the Big Bash League (BBL) from the end of December to the middle of February is starting to hurt attendance and player development in Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup matches.

Watson, who recently replaced Simon Katich as the executive of the of the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA), added that Cricket Australia need to tread carefully as numerous players have already begun to complain about the balance of Australia’s domestic structure.

“We’re getting a lot of information at the moment from all the players and the past players and working with Cricket Australia to be able to try and get the best balance,” Watson told ESPNcricinfo. “I know the balance really seems to have shifted towards Twenty20 cricket and the BBL – I’ve certainly played a lot of T20 around the world, but there’s also a balance you can get that doesn’t take away from the Sheffield Shield and the Ryobi Cup.

“The BBL is obviously a money-earner and people love watching it, but you’ve got to find the balance so it’s not all in one direction geared to one competition. That balance needs to be found, and that’s where the players need to have a good voice, but they’re on the ground and know what’s working and not working to continue their development as cricketers, and also the development of the game.

“There’s no doubt T20 has brought different sponsors and different people to the game of cricket who wouldn’t normally have been coming through the gates. But it’s finding that balance so we’re able to develop all-round cricketers who can play hopefully all formats, so it’s not young kids coming in and just being tailored to T20 cricket, it’s being tailored so you’ve got the foundation to be able to adapt to any form of cricket you do play.”

Speaking about the decline in the quality of Australia’s batsmen over the past couple of years, Watson echoed former Australia captain Ricky Ponting’s comments about strengthening and diverting more resources to domestic competitions like the Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup.

“It’s as simple as developing the talent we’ve got in Australia and getting the best out of them,” Watson said. “We need to have the coaches there to get the best out of the talent we’ve got – we’ve always got a lot of extremely talented cricketers coming through and that’s always been one of the big strengths of Australian cricket. We need to work on developing what we’ve got, making sure the right coaches are in the right places, to grow the love and passion for the game, but also the talent and skill they have. Give them a good grounding so that when they move up they have a really sound foundation.”

Watson was also pleased to have been elected to the ACA executive committee, a group which includes Michael Hussey, George Bailey, Marcus North, Neil Maxwell and Lisa Sthalekar.

“To think that I’ve got enough votes to be voted onto the ACA executive certainly does mean a lot to me,” Watson said. “It’s nice to know people think I’ve got the right type of personality and the right type of experience to be able to give a lot to continuing to develop the game. It’s something I’ve been very much thinking about and talking to [the chief executive] Paul Marsh about for the last couple of years and it’s come up now because Simon Katich has stepped down.

“One of the big roles I’ll play is to have input into what’s needed, whether it’s at grassroots level, grade cricket, first-class cricket or even the Australian team and the academy. There’s a number of things in the development area I think they can improve. That’s what we’re about, the input we can have to try to grow cricket from the grassroots up, so once a few of us older guys have moved on and stopped playing there’s a lot of really good, young, talented guys coming through.”

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