The minefield BBL clubs face to secure international talent this summer as the competition moves to a full 59-game home-and-away season has been highlighted by the surprise ODI recall of West Indian allrounder Andre Russell after an absence of nearly three years.
The upside for the eight Big Bash clubs this season is they can expect to have Australian limited-overs stars available for more of the tournament than in previous years given the summer schedule is front-loaded with white-ball fixtures against South Africa, with only three ODIs against India condensed into a week between January 12-18.
But of the world's top 10 ranked T20 sides, only Afghanistan are not involved in international fixtures for some part of the BBL, which runs from December 19 to February 17.
Russell, one of the most in-demand T20 players around the globe and a BBL title-winner with the Sydney Thunder, is understood to have been courted by several clubs but is yet to strike a deal.
The 30-year-old Jamaican has played just one ODI since the 2015 World Cup, but this week was named to return for a three-match ODI series against Bangladesh, starting next week in Guyana.
The Windies are scheduled to tour Bangladesh for two Tests, three ODIs and a T20 between December 3 and January 4 this summer, according to the ICC's Future Tours Programme (FTP), before they return home to host England in for three Tests, five ODIs and three T20s.
The schedules for both tours have not yet been confirmed, but it's understood the England tour will start with Tests in January, which could open the door for Russell and other West Indies white-ball stars to be available for a large chunk of BBL|08.
"(It's) great to have Dre Russ back," West Indies coach Stuart Law said. "His explosive power and energy will breathe life into an already motivated squad."
West Indies have dropped former Sixers and Thunder allrounder Carlos Brathwaite from their ODI side and while the hero of the 2016 World T20 final will seek to win his spot back, he could find himself available for more Big Bash cricket.
The availability of Afghanistan's stars for the entire tournament is good news for the Adelaide Strikers, with Afghan spin whiz and the world's No.1 ranked T20 bowler Rashid Khan set to be available for its duration.
It could also see the return of allrounder Mohammad Nabi, who played seven games for the Melbourne Renegades last summer before international duty called, while big-hitting wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad has all the hallmarks of a BBL cult hero in the making.
The Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes, with seam-bowling pair Jofra Archer and Tymal Mills locked in, are the only two clubs to so far to confirm two international signings, while the Brisbane Heat will again boast Brendon McCullum on their list.
The Thunder, Sixers, Scorchers, Renegades and Stars are yet to announce any overseas signings.
The Heat had been expecting to have Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab Khan on board for BBL|08, but have parted ways with the rising talent due to his increased playing commitments with the national team. Pakistan will be in South Africa this summer for a tour that runs from December 26 to February 6, covering most of the BBL season, featuring three Tests, five ODIs and three T20s.
The Sydney Thunder are reportedly set to lure England star Jos Buttler and national Test captain Joe Root, although that pair would likely only be available until early January before national duty calls in the Caribbean.
Other rumours have put the Melbourne Stars in the frame for England leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who has shunned red-ball cricket to focus on limited-overs formats, meaning he could be available for much of BBL|08.
The Stars have also been strongly linked with exiled Windies star Dwayne Bravo, who has been touted to make a cross-town move from the Melbourne Renegades.
The BBL|08 fixture was announced today, and will see the season stretch into February with the final to be played on February 17 with a Sunday afternoon timeslot.
It will also see the BBL clash with Test cricket for the first time, with Australia's day-night Test against Sri Lanka at the Gabba to clash with a Melbourne Stars v Brisbane Heat match at the MCG on January 27 that begins at 7.40pm.
Confirmed international signings for BBL|08
Adelaide Strikers: Colin Ingram (SA), Rashid Khan (Afg)
Brisbane Heat: Brendon McCullum (NZ)
Hobart Hurricanes: Jofra Archer (WI/England), Tymal Mills (England)
Melbourne Renegades: None
Melbourne Stars: None
Perth Scorchers: None
Sydney Sixers: None
Sydney Thunder: None
International cricket during BBL|08
(according to the ICC's FTP)
- Aus v Ind - 3 ODIs, 4 Tests, 3 T20s, Nov 21 – Jan 18
- Bang v WI - 2 Tests, 3 ODIs, 1 T20, Dec 3 – Jan 4
- NZ v SL - 2 Tests, 3 ODIs, 1 T20, Dec 3-28
- SA v Pak - 3 Tests, 5 ODIs, 3 T20s, Dec 26 – Feb 6
- Bang v Zim - 3 Tests 3 ODIs, Jan 7 – Feb 9
- WI v England - 3 Tests, 5 ODIs, 3 T20s, Jan 7 – Mar 22
- NZ v India - 5 ODIs, 3 T20s, Jan 14 – Feb 8
- Aus v SL - 2 Tests, Jan 24 – Feb 5
- SA v SL - 5 ODIs, 2 Tests, 3 T20s, Feb 13 – Mar 25