The Big Bash League enters its second season with Australian Twenty20 teams on a high.
The Aussies’ efforts in the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka and the Sydney Sixers’ triumph in the Champions League T20 have shown that Australians can actually succeed in the 20 over format.
With an even greater cast of local and international cricket stars (thankfully not Usain Bolt) turning out for this year’s BBL, it promises to be a cracker.
Glancing quickly at the squad might make you think this team is not much chop. However, the Strikers look to me to have assembled quite a balanced squad, which should translate into a solid playing XI.
Led by Johan Botha, who is a cunning captain and good with both bat and ball in Twenty20 cricket, I think the Strikers will beat some good sides this year.
Phil Hughes and Michael Klinger should open up, and with some big hitting from import Kieron Pollard, this side has the potential to post large totals.
The bowling looks solid too, with Tait and Botha to lead the attack with some overs to be made up by Andrew McDonald and the spinners.
Not the best squad in the competition by any means, but who knows what is going to happen in Twenty20?
Key man: Kieron Pollard
Who doesn’t love watching this guy play? Whether it’s with the bat, the ball, or in the field, Pollard is a dynamo. He could and should be both the key man and the crowd pleaser, and there is no doubt that if this guy fires often the Strikers could go all the way.
Crowd pleaser: Sean Tait
Now only bowling four overs at a time in a career riddled with injury due to his straining action, it will be good to watch the big man fire them in at pace. It will be the only chance you get this season so make sure you tune in.
There will be bouncers.
Squad: Johan Botha, Theo Doropoulos, Callum Ferguson, Phillip Hughes, Michael Klinger, Nathan Lyon, Andrew McDonald, Michael Neser, Kieron Pollard, Gary Putland, Nathan Reardon, Kane Richardson, James Smith, Shaun Tait, Tim Ludeman, Cameron Boyce
Brisbane look to have assembled a squad that can take them all the way this year. Just a quick glance should tell you they have the talent to win, but whether they will all play is another matter altogether.
We can expect Dale Steyn, Shane Watson, Daniel Vettori and Mitchell Johnson all to be out for at least a couple of games. The question then is whether the rest of the squad will be able to make up for it in the games they are absent.
Hitting power is another area of concern, for although they have powerful strikers like Luke Pomersbach, Dan Christian and Ben Cutting, they don’t pack the punch a few of the other sides do.
The bowling looks relatively strong, with Ben Cutting and Alister McDermott both performing well in last year’s BBL. Kemar Roach is an important addition, and should prove to be difficult to handle on fast ‘Gabba wickets. Add Christian, James Hopes and Nathan Hauritz to the list, and the Heat have, in my eyes, the second best attack in the competition.
Key man: Shane Watson
Australia’s best Twenty20 player by a bit; the questions for the Heat are can he stay fit and how many games will he play.
Massively important both as a bowler and batsmen, if and when he does play he will contribute in a big way.
Crowd pleaser: Kemar Roach
Another guy who can bowl super quick, knocking down stumps and bowling vicious bouncers. If this guy hits top speed it will be a spectacle.
Squad: Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Daniel Christian, Peter Forrest, Cameron Gannon, Ryan Harris, Chris Hartley, Nathan Hauritz, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Chris Lynn, Alister McDermott, Luke Pomersbach, Kemar Roach, Andrew Robinson, Dale Steyn, Shane Watson, Daniel Vettori
There are some lesser knowns in here, but Tasmanian cricket teams prove time and time again they can compete with the very best, and often come out on top.
However I am a bit worried by their choices of international players in Owais Shah and Scott Styris.
They should have plenty of firepower with the bat in hand, with Aiden Blizzard, Tim Paine, Travis Birt and Ben Dunk all able to hit a long ball and tally a big score. Let’s not forget recently retired Ricky Ponting, who will no doubt be looking to redeem himself after some poor performances in his final Tests.
I’m concerned about their bowling stocks, however, and foresee the likes of Ben Laughlin and Michael Hogan watching the ball disappear into the stands often. Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza will have to bowl well if they have any hope of making it to the finals.
Key man: Tim Paine
We’ll probably see Paine opening up, and he will play the role of anchor, looking to build totals and be there for as long as possible. If he manages to keep the score ticking over and makes a few scores in excess of 70 he may give Hurricanes fans a reason to hope.
Crowd pleaser: Travis Birt
Some of the biggest and easiest looking sixes I’ve ever seen have come from this bloke’s bat. He is a big unit and an even bigger striker of the white cricket ball.
He will hit sixes; how many he hits will play a large role in determining the fate of the Hurricanes.
Squad: George Bailey, Travis Birt, Aiden Blizzard, Doug Bollinger, Ed Cowan, Xavier Doherty, Ben Dunk, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hogan, Jason Krejza, Ben Laughlin, Tim Paine, Ricky Ponting, Owais Shah, Scott Styris, Timm van der Gugten, Jonathan Wells
The Renegades were a massive disappointment last year, winning only two of their seven games. This year they have a squad that should do better.
Most of their players will be available for the entire window, including key imports Marlon Samuels and Muttiah Muralitharan. The success of these two will go a long way in determining the success of the team.
On the bowling front, their stocks look a little thin. Tattooed quick Jayde Herrick, the man with the headband, and Nathan Rimmington should shoulder the opening bowling duties. These two aren’t the tidiest in state fixtures and opening bats like David Warner and Chris Gayle may fancy their chances.
Left arm spinner Aaron O’Brien will team up with Murali and Samuels on the spin front, and if he is able to zip through his overs, as he has done many times in the one-day arena for South Australia, it will be a big plus for the Renegades. O’Brien’s handy lower middle order batting should also prove quite handy.
Samuels, Cooper and Doolan will shoulder the batting burden in the middle order, and if Aaron Finch can get the Renegades off to some flyers, they certainly have the ability to amass some large totals.
Key man: Marlon Samuels
He won the ICC World Twenty20 this year almost singlehandedly with a huge innings, complete with towering sixes and generally bruising batting. He did something similar with partner in crime, Chris Gayle, in the semi as well, so Aussies should be well aware of what he can do.
With the bat he is a match winner, and he has proved he can bowl at the death with his dart-like offies. May be the most influential cricketer in the entire BBL.
Crowd pleaser: Jayde Herrick
Murali really should go here, but there is something so great about watching a big, strapping, bald, tattooed fast-bowler running and slamming it into the deck.
A genuinely quick bowler, whenever he’s bowling there should be something happening. And if there isn’t, at least you can talk about his fashion sense.
Squad: Fawad Ahmed, Meyrick Buchanan, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Brendan Drew, Aaron Finch, Daniel Harris, Jayde Herrick, Michael Hill, James Muirhead, Muttiah Muralitharan, Peter Nevill, Aaron O’Brien, Darren Pattinson, Nathan Rimmington, Ben Rohrer, Will Sheridan, Marlon Samuels