New Zealand-New South Wales air bubble could help bring top West Indies players to BBL

Kieron Pollard takes a diving catch in the deep Getty Images

The West Indies squad could provide a lucrative source of overseas signings for the BBL, after the competition added scope for a third foreign player in the XIs, if the tournament can take advantage of the travel bubble that exists with New Zealand.

West Indies have a three-match T20I series in the country at the end of November followed by two Tests, and since earlier this month it is now possible to travel from New Zealand into New South Wales without needing to quarantine on arrival.

The West Indies players will undergo managed isolation when they arrive at the start of the tour next month, but under current regulations, they will then be able to move around freely with the normal population unlike the restrictive biosecure bubbles which are in operation around the world.

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That could mean they are able to fly directly to Australia to take up BBL deals without the need to quarantine for 14 days, although Cricket Australia (CA) stressed that all overseas players are subject to Australian Border Force approval. The T20I series finishes on November 30 and the second Test ends on December 15 in Wellington. The BBL, meanwhile, is expected to begin in the second week of the month.

A significant number of the West Indies squad could be of interest to BBL clubs since it was confirmed there is now room for an extra overseas player, revealed by ESPNcricinfo earlier this week, which will be funded outside of the salary cap.

Kieron Pollard is captain of the T20I side which includes Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer, the latter who is also in the Test group. West Indies Test captain Jason Holder is not part of their T20 set-up but is currently at the IPL and could interest clubs as might fast bowler Kemar Roach who has previously played in the BBL.

Andre Russell, who would likely gain plenty of interest, Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis opted out of the New Zealand tour so they would need to go through 14 days quarantine to be part of the BBL. Dwayne Bravo recently withdrew due to an injury sustained at the IPL.

The BBL is attempting to attract as many big-name overseas signings as possible to help compensate for the potential absence of more Australian internationals to the larger squads that will be needed this season. They're also looking to ease tensions with broadcaster Channel Seven, although the postponement of New Zealand's limited-overs tour in January means there is a clear window in the latter part of the competition. However, given the strains on multi-format players this season, it would appear unlikely the likes of David Warner, Steven Smith, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc will feature.

"It's such a fast-changing environment with borders and different considerations. Our clubs have been really innovative and agile to be able to adjust their recruitment strategies so that [bubble] is a good example of one that's opened up recently and I know there's conversations happening," Alistair Dobson, the head of the BBL, said. "There's a unique opportunity to capitalise on it if that's the way our clubs decide to go, there are a players that are available and suit the contracting strategies. That would be a great result."

"I think having the best players in the BBL is always a primary objective of our clubs. You can see by some of the announcements in recent days that they've been really ambitious. The third player on the list just adds another dimension, [more] depth and quality to the teams. The types of players we get, there will be some names you know and some up and coming stars. There's plenty of history in the BBL of players leaving the competition with much bigger profiles than when they arrived."

However, while the bubble exists with New Zealand it could be harder to get their own players involved. Pakistan tour after West Indies and though that series finishes on January 7, there is no more international cricket until late February. When the schedule was announced, NZC made specific mention of having their leading names available for the T20 Super Smash, although some could well be attracted across the Tasman.

"One of the silver linings is that our Super Smash competition, which will be played in that window, will now be boosted by the presence of Blackcaps and White Ferns," David White, the NZC CEO, said last month. "It's going to be the best Super Smash yet, I'm confident of that."

Dobson said: "I know there's some players from New Zealand we'd love to have in the BBL if it lines up. I can see a way for them to be part of it. They've got their own commitments at the same time, [so] it all comes down to the unique requirements of each club, borders and contract strategies. But it certainly looks like there's a unique opportunity this year with that bubble opening."

Outside of the potential advantages of the New Zealand bubble, Dobson said that all indications were that other overseas players would still require 14 days hard quarantine including the England contingent who will have come from a biosecure series in South Africa. The WBBL players recently completed the same protocols and were not allowed outside of their hotel rooms for that period, but Dobson added he had not received any significant concerns from the BBL players already signed.

The schedule itself is expected to be confirmed shortly after the rubberstamping of the Australia-India fixtures. That tour received government approval on Thursday and is awaiting final BCCI sign-off. On Friday, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated that state borders, expect Western Australia's, could be open again by Christmas which may give the BBL more flexibility with the fixturing.