Not a lucky night for the Stoin.
I have to admit I’ve been a little bit surprised by some of the commentary critical of the timing of the Twenty20 International tri-series with New Zealand and England, and how it’s going to bastardise the Big Bash League finals series.
On the surface, it feels like much of the commentary is based on seeing four games in close proximity on the calendar and making a whole lot of assumptions that may or may not be true.
This is the issue: the BBL semi-finals will be played on Thursday, February 1 and Friday, February 2, and the Final will be played on Sunday, February 4.
Australia plays New Zealand in the first match of the Twenty20 tri-series on Saturday, February 3 in Sydney. And just to add to the selection mess, the Prime Minister’s XI will take on England in Canberra on Friday, February 2 as well.
The commentary suggesting that the BBL Finals will be compromised by the best players being required for the national side seems to be working on two broad assumptions: the first being that the eleven best-performing BBL players will automatically be selected for Australia, and the second being that Australian players will go into camp before the BBL semis and won’t be released back.
The first assumption almost certainly won’t be true, because, for starters, there will be players in the ODI side who follow onto the Twenty20 side without having played much BBL in recent weeks anyway.
The second assumption – that players won’t be released back to BBL sides – also assumes that only the top four teams will supply players to the Australian side, and that also won’t be true. And the part about players not being released may not be true either, based on a very encouraging precedent set over the weekend.
Travis Head and Alex Carey weren’t required for the third ODI in Sydney, and were immediately released to the Strikers for tonight’s game against the Renegades. But that wasn’t all.
Cameron White was promoted to no.3 in the batting order yesterday, but he, too, was named to resume his place as Renegades captain in what is a hugely important game for his side. Clearly, CA want the best BBL players to play for their sides, and it was a move not lost on the players.
So @CameronWhite152 is playing the ODI today in Sydney then is allowed to play BBL in Melbourne tomorrow?
— Daniel Christian (@danchristian54) January 21, 2018
Come the finals and the first T20I, there’s no reason why the same sort of thing can’t happen, and there’s two ways that CA can make it happen.
They could pick a squad for the first Twenty20 without players from the top four sides, which at any rate with the natural overflow from the Australian ODI side might only mean some – but not all – of White, Carey, Head, AJ Tye, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Agar, Michael Klinger, Aaron Finch, and perhaps even Chris Lynn just sit out the first Twenty20 game.
The second way – and most logical way, in my humble opinion – is to pick a bigger squad for the first Twenty20 with the expectation that guys will be released to play the BBL Final.
A squad of 17, 18, or even 20 players could be picked, but the final squad doesn’t have to be named until after both semi-finals have been played, and with the respective BBL players released back to their sides for the Final. Then, refine the squad for the next block of T20Is after the BBL Final and first Twenty20 have been played.
There’s no reason why this can’t happen. Yes, the schedule isn’t perfect, but a workable solution does exist. In reality, it would only be a handful players who play the BBL Final instead of the first T20I. It’s hardly a huge issue.
“Por que no los dos?” the Old El Paso ad famously asked. We can have both, cute little girl. We really can.
The Perth Scorchers inched that much closer to a home semi-final, chasing down Hobart’s total on Saturday night, following the Sydney Thunder keeping their finals hope alive earlier in the day. It means the Big Bash League table looks this way.
PERTH 14, ADELAIDE 12, HOBART 10, MELBOURNE RENEGADES 8; Sydney Thunder 8, Brisbane 8, Sydney Sixers 6, Melbourne Stars 2.
Monday – Game 35: Melbourne Renegades vs Adelaide Strikers, Docklands
This is quite intriguing, this game, made only more so by the return of the Australian players to both sides. Carey will be buzzing from his Australian debut, Head will be eager to find some form, and White will keen to prove that his national recall wasn’t for nothing. And, there’s the small detail of each side and their fight for finals security. Strikers win, and they can go top again with run rate; Renegades win, and they jump to third.
Tip – Strikers. I’m not sure White’s return is enough, nor am I sold on Kieron Pollard’s inclusion for the Renegades.
Tuesday – Game 36: Sydney Sixers vs Melbourne Stars, SCG
Okay, cricket fans, if there was a night to earn brownie points at home this week, or if you are indeed contemplating a night watching another channel, tonight’s the night. It’s seven versus eight; the two most disappointing teams in #BBL07. I can only think of Nathan Lyon’s bowling and Glenn Maxwell’s batting as reasons to watch. No judgements here.
Tip – Sixers. The Stars wasted benefit of the coin toss last Saturday, they don’t get a second chance.
Wednesday – Game 37: Sydney Thunder vs Melbourne Renegades; Manuka Oval, Canberra
Canberra returns to the BBL circuit for the first time since the BBL04 Final, and though not that long ago this game looked like it might be a bit of a dead rubber, recent results have suddenly thrust great importance on it.
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After Monday night’s game, the Renegades will either be on ten points and back in the top four, or still on eight and in a battle. If it’s the latter, that plays into the Thunder’s hands, with Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson in ominous late-season form.
Tip – Thunder. I don’t really know why…
Thursday – Game 38: Perth Scorchers vs Adelaide Strikers, the WACA
I wrongly suggested Sunday’s match against Hobart was the Scorchers’ last at the WACA, but of course, it’s this one against Adelaide that will quite likely decide home final hosting rights.
Depending on what Adelaide did on Monday night, Perth may already be secure in the semi; regardless, both teams will be looking to win this game and edge close toward nailing down top spot. The big question: how many ODI reps will feature in this game?
Tip – Scorchers. No matter the situation, they just find ways of winning at home.