Should he have been picked?
Excitement is building for BBL09, with squads nearly finalised and the jam-packed fixtures and a curious Australian international tour of India mid-tournament sure to create panic and beautiful disaster.
With the Big Bash just a fortnight away, it’s time to look at how each team will line-up early on and what we can expect.
Travis Head (international duty), Jake Lehmann, Cameron Valente, Harry Conway, Nick Winter, Harry Nielsen and Liam O’Connor.
The Strikers are coming off a disappointing campaign last season, when they finished second last and really struggled to put together consistent batting performances. The addition of Phil Salt is a good one, as the 23-year-old has an average of 26.47 and a strike rate of 154.23 as an opener in 50 T20 matches. He’ll give Adelaide a slightly different look to the predictable opening partnership they’ve stuck with for years.
The loss of leading wicket-taker Ben Laughlin mightn’t hurt as much as many believe, with Wes Agar currently one of domestic cricket’s best pace bowlers in 2019. His record of two wickets in five BBL matches can be overlooked as he has a great chance to form a dynamic pace trio with Michael Neser and Billy Stanlake to bowl Adelaide to wins again this year. The form of Rashid Khan, however, may be cause for slight concern. The 21-year-old looked much easier to face last season and, in averaging just one wicket per game in all formats over the last two months against the West Indies, we may see a more lethargic Khan in BBL09.
A squad lacking in quality batting depth that will be affected by the absence of Travis Head and Alex Carey in key stages of the tournament, coach Jason Gillespie faces an uphill battle in relying on the bowling to do the job once again. Conway, Winter, Valente and O’Connor can all come in and play nice roles at different stages, but it’s unlikely to give the team an overall boost when push comes to shove.
Joe Burns (international), Marnus Labsuchagne (international), AB de Villiers (replacing Banton), Zahir Khan, Matt Renshaw, Josh Lalor and Jack Prestwidge.
Brisbane has put together a team that many are predicting will win the Big Bash League this season, with big hitting clearly the approach to adopt at the Gabba. Missing a little batting depth early in the tournament due to Test selection, it wouldn’t necessarily surprise to see the Heat carry an extra spinner and one fewer batsman with only one game at the Gabba before the 9 January game against Hobart.
The international players are stars. Tom Banton is a 21-year-old opening batsman who has already represented England in this form of the game, such is his creativity and ability. Brisbane is the perfect landing spot for Banton, who will feel less pressure when surrounded by equally talented hitters of the cricket ball.
Zahir Khan has been signed due to the flexibility of signing up to six international players and will be a good addition to the XI when seen fit. Bowling his left-arm wrist spin, Khan tends to tempt batsmen more with his bowling, which results in more chances created and a higher economy rate. Mujeeb has been retained, while the legend that is AB de Villiers will join the team later.
Overall this is a squad that has been put together to blast teams out of matches, while early wickets will be this team’s downfall. The fact Brisbane doesn’t have any international limited-overs players means that as the opposition struggles, the Heat will simply grow stronger. Ben Laughlin joining the team as a late recruit ties up the potential loose end of hittable pace bowlers as the only option.
Matthew Wade (international), Clive Rose, Jake Doran, Jarrod Freeman, Aaron Summers, Tom Rogers and David Moody.
Another team with good firepower at the top of the order, the Hurricanes always stand out as a likeable team to support but one that doesn’t really have great prospects when fighting for the championship. It would require enormous seasons from the typical trio of Short, McDermott and Wade for Hobart to have any opportunity, as batting is where the real strength lies.
David Miller might be the best international signing the Hurricanes have ever made, with the 30-year-old being one of the best T20 batsmen in the world right now. Averaging an astonishing 35.27 in 298 T20 matches, Miller can be a key cog batting at No. 4 or a finisher in a big run chase, where his power and creativity come to the fore. It also means that George Bailey can slip down to No. 5, perhaps protecting a longer tail than initially desired.
It seems as though all of the positivity about the batting is not only warranted but also painfully desired when analysing Hobart’s bowling. No matter who is selected, this is an attack that can concede multiple scores of 200-plus throughout the tournament and would require players to perform extremely well to make games easy for the batsmen.
Ahmad is the best of the bowlers at just 19 years of age and will be the only one who can be relied upon to deliver in every game. Meredith and Ellis have been in good form this season, with the latter almost certain to make his debut, but Scott Boland and James Faulkner have been known to be liabilities with the ball at times. The Hurricanes need a big season from Faulkner as the key all-rounder, while relying on the sheer pace of Riley Meredith might be a necessity fraught with danger.
Hobart will be one of the most entertaining teams one way or the other this season, but playing with fire could be disastrous for this team.
Will Sutherland, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Zak Evans, Mackenzie Harvey, Joe Mennie, Beau Webster and Jon Holland.
The reigning champions aren’t the most eye-catching team to watch necessarily, but every player in the squad, regardless of experience, can slot into the XI and play a key role in victory.
The Renegades certainly strengthened their top order for BBL09 by signing Shaun Marsh, clearly seeking to remove the chance of a complete collapse once the opening stand is broken. On paper it seems a puzzling move for the veteran, who moves from a perfect batting deck in Perth to the tacky, slow pitch at Marvel Stadium, but Marsh is a good enough player to adapt to any conditions and perform well.
With a bowling attack built for Marvel Stadium, the Renegades hold a huge home-ground advantage that almost locks them into finals from the outset. Each bowler prefers their slower ball to any other delivery, while Boyce and Nabi have experienced great success with their varying pace and flight often deceiving the opposition.
Having mundane reliability mixed with genuine X factor with both bat and ball, it’s hard to see the Renegades not contending for the title once again. Dan Christian only needs to play two or three good games to be one of the most important cricketers in T20 cricket and shouldn’t be discounted despite his age and veteran status.
Pat Brown (replacing Steyn), Nick Larkin, Clint Hinchcliffe, Jackson Coleman, Jonathan Merlo, Lance Morris and Tom O’Connell.
After the way in which the Stars lost to the Renegades in the final of BBL08, the hope from the green Melbourne team would be to improve and show greater consistency. With a squad to be ravaged by international selection in the middle of the tournament again, though, even making finals could be a stretch.
The Stars always have elite top-end talent. Stoinis, Maddinson and Maxwell are incredibly damaging, while the addition of Coulter-Nile and Steyn to match Zampa and Lamicchane forms a formidable bowling attack. The issue for the Stars is that most of those players will be absent during January, and with the season shortened by a fortnight, it’s an unideal scenario for the Stars.
The best hope will be to get early wins on the board and hope the likes of Cartwright, Gotch, Coleman and Morris stand up when many key players depart. Pat Brown is a nice signing for the second half of the tournament, particularly with his skill set in change-ups as a pace bowler, but relying on young imports is a dangerous strategy.
It’s a weird XI as always for the Stars, who have previously used the likes of Evan Gulbis and more recently Jonathan Merlo to not do much other than field as gameday insurance if everything goes poorly. They may elect to continue this strategy that worked for them last year, although there are concerns over the fact this tournament goes for only 42 days.
Joel Paris, Josh Inglis, Aaron Hardie, Nick Hobson, Andrew Tye (injured) and Jason Behrendorff (injured).
At this stage it appears the Scorchers are carrying an incomplete squad given injuries to key players are likely going to result in holes throughout the team.
The signing of Fawad Ahmed might be the strangest we’ve seen in a while, particularly given it’s the batting that appears to be lacking severely in depth for Perth. The leg spinner has signed on for a couple of years and will likely keep a pace bowler out, but the veteran simply must be able to deliver immediately, as Perth has bowling depth within the XI itself.
A swift rise to popularity for Cameron Green based on his batting will likely be capitalised upon, and the Scorchers line-up doesn’t look as weak as it may have even a month ago, with all-rounders ensuring that there is competent batting until the last couple.
English internationals Liam Livingstone and Chris Jordan are exciting, veteran prospects who have been human highlight reels in the past, with the former perhaps looking at the Big Bash as an opportunity to become a regular for his country.
Despite a dour reputation, the opening partnership of Bancroft and Patterson could be the key to success for Perth. The Scorchers have always been a relevant team, with mediocrity an outlier, and this has stemmed from stability and calm throughout the batting and bowling.
Having lost a number of key players, the challenge for Adam Voges will be to ensure the old ‘Langer approach’ is instilled into a group that hasn’t played much cricket together from all over the country.
The Scorchers will be a fascinating watch this season, with some young talent who could become Australian regulars in the not-too-distant future.
Nathan Lyon (international), Steven Smith (international), Peter Nevill, Daniel Fallins, Lloyd Pope, Justin Avendano, Mickey Edwards and Henry Thornton.
A couple of exciting players doesn’t change the dim prospects of a team that hasn’t really changed in recent memory.
With Phillipe and Vince in the top order there’s elegance and creativity to get the Sixers off to a good start, but when there’s a reliance on hopeful hitting in the middle-to-lower order to try and put a decent score on the board it’s easy to see why the Sixers are predicted to struggle.
While it may be a harsh call, the Sixers are a bootleg Melbourne Renegades in the sense that the team is built on consistency and maximising a pitch that suits bowlers with good change-ups and patient batting.
There aren’t enough matchwinners in this team, however, and with Tom Curran now an international commodity and a lack of experience in squad depth, it’s hard to see the Sixers fighting it out at the top end.
Nathan Lyon will be available for the second half of the tournament, which is a nice boost for the team, but having too many bowlers aiming for economy and not enough attacking options doesn’t tend to win teams many games.
A lot rests on the shoulders of the international representatives for the Sixers, and if a good tournament is to be had for the team, these players will need to deliver consistently.
Arjun Nair, Gurinder Sandhu, Oliver Davies, Jono Cook, Tanveer Sangha, Jay Lenton and Nathan McAndrew.
Rated as tournament outsider, the Thunder has the talent to win the whole thing if everything clicks and its players simply provide consistent output.
There’s an excellent combination of power and patience with the bat and X factor and guile with the ball. As a rule, the Thunder goes into games with at least six players who can bowl, with spin bowlers a key part of the team’s game plan.
It wouldn’t surprise to see Nair, Green and Sangha bowl ten overs between them in some games, particularly on the tacky pitches the Thunder tend to play on, while the batting order can be mixed around to maximise the power hitting of Morris and Sams.
A key area the Thunder needs to ensure it is on top of is the economy rate. Too many times the team has thrown the ball around too much and it has resulted in a lack of fluidity and consistency in the bowling, with players ultimately struggling to find their rhythm.
Signing Alex Hales is a risk worth taking for the Thunder, with the Englishman yet to find consistent form at BBL level. Usman Khawaja’s season-long availability and Callum Ferguson’s current incredible form means the batting could be the part of the Thunder that earns the most plaudits.
It’s a squad without many huge names but one that should be seen as the tournament smokey.