By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, July 15 (Reuters) - Cricket Australia (CA) confirmed on Wednesday it will stage the longest ever Big Bash League (BBL) in 2020/21, despite some players calling for a reduced version of the domestic Twenty20 tournament.
The BBL's increase to 56 regular season matches from the 2018/19 tournament has been unpopular with players and pundits, some of whom blamed its length for disappointing crowds in the last edition.
However, CA have confirmed the BBL will have its earliest ever start from Dec. 3 and finish with the championship-deciding final on Feb. 6.
The early start offers CA some leeway in dealing with problems that may arise due to COVID-19, which prompted authorities to send Melbourne back into lockdown last week following a spike in infections.
The early matches will also clash with Australia's series-opening test against India at the Gabba from Dec. 3.
After the BBL schedule was released, Brisbane Heat captain Chris Lynn, an outspoken critic of the last tournament, tweeted: "The Golden Goose has been cooked again," before deleting the post.
CA also announced the Women's Big Bash League would have a full 59-match schedule running from Oct. 17 to Nov. 29, with 26 matches carried live by broadcasters, three more than the 2019 tournament.
The players union welcomed the certainty given by the scheduling.
"While our position on the length of the (men's) BBL season and its ability to attract the world's best players is well known, we appreciate the challenges ... in developing a schedule which satisfies all stakeholders in these extraordinary circumstances," Australian Cricketers' Association General Manager Cricket Operations Brendan Drew said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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