Shortened BBL to lure big names: Lehmann

Michael Ramsey and Murray Wenzel
Cricket Australia hope to re-ignite the BBL fire this season after a protracted 2018-19 competition

Returning Brisbane Heat coach Darren Lehmann is confident a shorter Big Bash League season with a finals twist will lure more of international cricket's biggest names back to Australia this summer.

Average crowds dropped in every state's capital city during the expanded 2018-19 campaign, which spanned almost two months.

The drawn-out nature of the tournament made it tougher to attract high-profile internationals and was widely criticised for running well beyond the school holidays into a February 17 decider.

The 2019-20 regular season will be played across just 41 days between December 17 and January 27 - the final day of school holidays - with the last seven home-and-away games crammed into the Australia Day long weekend.

Like the governing body, Lehmann hopes condensing the season will maximise viewer interest and make the BBL more attractive to big-name international recruits.

"I did (notice the lack of star power last season) but you've got to really pick the nuts out of the international schedule, which gets hard sometimes," he said.

Lehmann, who replaces Daniel Vettori in Brisbane this season, remains hopeful of luring England's World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan to the Heat.

"Hopefully they see the condensed schedule as a real plus to come over and play," he said.

"He's (Morgan) still on the radar definitely; obviously he had a pretty good World Cup and the way he goes about the game on and off the field is exceptional.

"If we can get someone of that ilk we'd be really happy."

Five teams will face off in a revamped Big Bash finals format aimed at rewarding the top finishers and adding intrigue to the end of the season.

The finals will start on January 30 and run across two weekends, culminating in a Saturday night decider on February 8.

Teams finishing first and second will earn a double chance under the new format.

In eight BBL seasons, the minor premiers have only gone on to win the title once - in 2016-17 when the Perth Scorchers triumphed.

The teams that finish fourth and fifth will face off in a sudden-death clash, and - as is the case in the AFL - they would need to win four finals to claim the title.

A key concern last season was the short turnaround after the semi-finals which left little time to publicise the title decider.

CA has looked to resolve that issue by providing the team that earns grand-final hosting rights with a full week to prepare.

With the exception of Christmas Day, games will be played every day between the start and finish of the regular season.

For the first time since 1994 there is no international fixture scheduled on Australia Day, leaving the BBL to fill the cricketing void.

BBL09 FINALS FIXTURES

* THURSDAY, January 30

Elimination final (4th v 5th)

* FRIDAY, January 31

Qualifying final (1st v 2nd)

* SATURDAY, February 1

'Knockout' final (3rd v winner of elimination final)

* THURSDAY, February 6

'Challenger' final (Loser of qualifying final v winner of 'knockout' final)

* SATURDAY, February 8

Final (Winner of qualifying final v winner of 'challenger' final)