South African superstar AB de Villiers has pulled back on plans to play in the KFC BBL this season.
Cricket.com.au has confirmed a report in News Corp that despite strong interest from several BBL clubs and the de Villiers camp earlier this year, he has cooled on plans to play in the tournament in 2019-20.
De Villiers has long been tipped to take part in the BBL and reports emerged last month that he was being shopped around to franchises, with the two Sydney clubs and the Brisbane Heat reportedly leading the race for his signature.
The news comes as Cricket Australia announced each BBL club will now be permitted to sign up to six overseas players during the season, an increase from four, in a change that is hoped will lure more foreign stars to the competition.
Clubs are still allowed a maximum of two overseas players on their 18-player roster at any one time, but they can now contract up to four more as potential replacements throughout the season.
The move comes in an increasingly cluttered international market that means many players are only available for parts of the BBL due to international and domestic commitments. It's hoped the rule change will encourage clubs to recruit big-name players even if they aren't available for the whole tournament.
BBL clubs have already become more flexible in recent years when it comes to recruiting international talent; BBL|08 champions Melbourne Renegades, for example, signed Pakistan quick Usman Shinwari for the first half of last season and Englishman Harry Gurney for the second half, knowing that Shinwari would likely have to leave midway through the tournament due to Pakistan's ODI series in South Africa.
Another example is the Sydney Thunder's decision to sign England stars Jos Buttler and Joe Root on short-term deals, knowing they would miss the second half of the tournament due to England's tour of the Caribbean. The Thunder signed Kiwi Anton Devcich and Englishman Chris Jordan to replace Buttler and Root when they departed.
Last year's BBL tournament overlapped with both the Bangladesh Premier League and Pakistan Super League as well as several bilateral international series, underlining the difficulties clubs can face when trying to recruit in-demand players.
"The maximum number of overseas players permitted in a club’s squad will remain at two, but there is now increased flexibility to contract up to six players throughout the season and rotate them in and out as required,” Cricket Australia Executive General Manager Fan Engagement Anthony Everard explained in a statement.
"It’s a fantastic result for the competition, with clubs given a better chance at securing international players on a short-term basis to fit into an increasingly competitive global cricketing calendar."