As yet another season of the WBBL nears the pointy-end, the cricket world holds its breath in anticipation of the grand final featuring the stars of the female cricket world.
Both Australian and international big-names from the qualifying WBBL franchises such as Ellyse Perry, Harmanpreet Kaur, Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney and Stafanie Taylor descended on Drummoyne Oval in Sydney’s inner-west, headlining a cricket bonanza that provided spectacular entertainment for fans young and old.
However as the ground-breaking tournament geared up for finals time, a notable absentee from the playoff stages were, once again, the girls in green, the Melbourne Stars.
This is a team that, despite once boasting prominent female cricketers in Meg Lanning, Jess Cameron (Duffin), Emma Inglis, Hayley Jensen, Nat Sciver and Emma Kearney, have become the last team never make the playoffs in the history of the competition, considering the rival Melbourne Renegades’ recent finals berth.
The Stars – who were one of the favourites in the initial instalment of the tournament – have significantly underachieved in their four seasons, finishing fifth, fifth, seventh and seventh respectively, since the tournament’s inception in 2015.
While the lack of results on a consistent basis – both this season and previously – could be blamed on instability and insecurity of players’ roles within the group, another major flaw in the Stars’ quest for the WBBL title comes down to the crucial list management decisions that can make or break a franchise’s season.
For a team to win such a close and competitive competition like the WBBL, every list decision must be made with integrity and thought, and those that aren’t are closely analysed and scrutinised by the media and the cricket community.
This is one area the Melbourne team have been let down in; the ability to not only boost their roster with big-name players as well as a strong ‘lower tier’ as to say, but to get the best out of their players game in, game out.
A failure to do this in each and every game in the WBBL, a competition in which every game is crucial, can prove costly as it has with the Stars.
In Meg Lanning, arguably the world’s best female batswoman, the Stars had from the beginning of the first season someone they could build their list around for the next decade, possibly even longer.
This was meant to be the drawcard that would not only propel team green into the inaugural WBBL Finals Series, but also encourage other players – local and international – to join her team and follow her inspirational leadership both on the field and off it.
Two years later, after two fifth place finishes, she left. Following a nasty injury that ruled Lanning out for the entirety of WBBL|03, she decided to jump ship to Perth, the team that had already made an name for itself finishing fourth in the inaugural season.
This team boasted Australian and international stars Ellyse Villani, Nicole Bolton, Katherine Brunt and Charlotte Edwards.
The Scorchers’ crafty recruiting strategy, which consisted of building a team full of international and big-name recruits combined with local talent, was built to lure rival prospects to their franchise.
Unfortunately, however, the Stars have been unable to enjoy the same success in the list management department. Lanning aside, the Stars have never been able to fill their marquee-spots with out-and-out superstars.
Mignon du Preez, the wily South African veteran, has been unable to make her mark on the WBBL scene since being recruited in WBBL|01.
She’s probably not the ideal T20 player, however if it wasn’t for regular top order failures and a lack of tempo from the batting line-up, her technique would perfectly complement that of the others.
She has too often come in and needed to be the enforcer where, after early wickets, the team has found itself in an awkward situation. Yet, this cannot be used as an excuse – Du Preez has been at the club for four seasons and is yet to have a real impact.
Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that she’ll be returning next season when her valuable international roster spot could be better suited to a more modern-style T20 batsman.
Georgia Elwiss, the English international, has also failed to impress in her two seasons in green. Always showing solid yet not match-winning potential, she’s unfortunately another who the Stars have lacked consistent performances from.
Neither dominant with bat nor ball, she has failed to deliver when it matters most – especially in times when the team is in need of a special knock crafted by experience.
Ahead of a time where the Stars look to be again rebuilding their list, it’s again looking unlikely Elwiss will be returning in late 2019, with more output needed from overseas professionals like herself.
Finally, Lizelle Lee is one of the most exciting yet frustrating players to watch in the women’s game. Everyone has seen what she’s capable of, with her unbeaten hundred in the Stars’ season opener against the Sixers showing she’s one of the strongest and most powerful hitters in existence.
While she’s likely to return for a third stint in the WBBL, there’s one glaring issue that Lee, and Melbourne, will need to rectify if she wants to have sustained success in the competition.
Calming down her ego.
We all know Lee is capable of a special knock, but apart from the aforementioned innings in her first game of the season, she failed to convert her starts into big scores due to her mindset to go big every ball she faced, often leading to soft dismissals in the teens or 20s. Quite simply, the Stars need more from her in order to progress into the final four in the future.
We all want to see the Melbourne Stars become a force to be reckoned with in the WBBL. To do so, however, the big list management decisions they face must be made with integrity and tough love.
Regardless of the Stars recent fate, let’s enjoy the grand final, hoping that one day it could be the stars of the Stars competing during this remarkable spectacle of women’s sport in the years to come.