Preview: The Big Bash League
“Like Home and Away and fairy floss combined – the BBL is here to decrease your intelligence and rot your teeth!” Or so the naysayers say!
However, the intelligence shown by the brains trust of the Big Bash franchises in picking their players belies the “Twenty20 is stupid cricket” stereotype. In fact, close analysis of each franchise’s squad displays flair, intelligence, and a strong grasp of T20 tactics. This switch from ‘Big Bash’ to ‘Big Bash League’ has become a open book team-building exercise that asks the question, ‘what makes a good Twenty20 team?’
Adelaide Strikers (Adelaide Oval)
Team Color: Blastoise Blue.
Captain: Michael Klinger. Coach: Darren Berry.
Players: Aiden Blizzard, Cameron Borgas, Lee Carseldine, Tom Cooper, Adam Crosthwaite, Theo Doropoulos, Brendan Drew, Callum Ferguson, Daniel Harris, Michael Klinger, Nathan Lyon, Bryce McGain, James Muirhead, Aaron O’Brien, Gary Putland, Kane Richardson.
International Player: Kieron Pollard (West Indies), Johan Botha (South Africa), Alfonso Thomas (South Africa).
The Strikers have taken an interesting approach to squad selection. In their squad are four ex-Victorian players – Adam Crosthwaite, Aiden Blizzard, Bryce McGain and their captain, Michael Klinger. They’ve shown a bit of foresight in signing 36 year old Lee Carseldine, who has a solid T20 pedigree and a decade of experience in Australian cricket. Their players to watch are test spinner Nathan Lyon, who originally made his mark as a limited overs bowler before being drafted into the test squad; Tom Cooper, their top-order batsman who plays for the Netherlands and is an accomplished strokeplayer at any position in the order; and McGain, who, despite having been dropped from the Victorian state team, continues to plug away at District level and is a very good T20 spinner. People tend to forget he was a valuable member of a dominant Bushrangers T20 outfit, and he’ll bring all of his experience to South Australia.
Meanwhile, Kieron Pollard keeps his South Australian ties intact, something we’ve already spoken about.
Likely style of play: Aiden Blizzard. Tom Cooper. Crosthwaite, Ferguson, Harris and Klinger. Expect big scores, although the bowling is slightly more suspect and may be the side’s weak link. Between McGain, Lyon, Johan Botha, 18 year-old Victorian leggie James Muirhead and Aaron O’Brien, they bring spin to the table in a big way.
In a word: Exciting.
Brisbane Heat (The Gabba)
Team Color: Bringing the heat! with a calming teal.
Captain: James Hopes.Coach: Darren Lehmann.
Players: Ryan Broad, Nick Buchanan, Daniel Christian, Ben Cutting, Peter Forrest, Ryan Harris, Nathan Hauritz, Matthew Hayden, James Hopes, Chris Lynn, Michael Neser, Chris Swan.
International Players: Brendon McCullum (New Zealand), Daniel Vettori (New Zealand).
I’m excited about the Heat’s chances this season, because they’ve been pretty shrewd with their signings, if slightly conservative. Their idea to pick two incredibly accomplished New Zealanders – fresh from a test series in Australia – adds legitimacy to an otherwise quiet lineup. Their list includes plenty of players who are multi-faceted, as Twenty20 requires; names like ‘James Hopes’, ‘Daniel Vettori’, and ‘Daniel Christian’ are important to the team in both the batting and bowling departments. I feel selfishly indignant that quieter players who have impressed me, such as Chris Swan and Andrew Robinson, may soon be household names. Matt Hayden adds a certain level of brevity to the team sheet, and if he’s kept some of his class he could be destructive in partnership with Brendon McCullum.
A fantastic squad, if slightly unassuming on paper.
Likely style of play: Slightly more conventional than most T20 teams. Strong in both departments; good enough to restrict teams to 160 and then chase it down regularly.
In a word: Varied.
Hobart Hurricanes (Bellerive Oval)
Team Color: Metrosexual Tie Purple.
Captain: Supposedly Tim Paine. Probably either Xavier Doherty or Ricky Ponting. Coach: Ali de Winter
Players: Travis Birt, Mark Cosgrove, Xavier Doherty, Luke Feldman, Evan Gulbis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hogan, Phil Jaques, Matt Johnson, Jason Krejza, Nick Kruger, Ben Laughlin, Rhett Lockyear, Ricky Ponting.
International Players: Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (Pakistan), Owais Shah (England).
Poor Tim Paine; his bung finger means he wont be taking part in this tournament at all. He would have been the icing on the cake, slotting in to a batting order that comprises Travis Birt, Phil Jaques, Owais Shah, Ricky-freaking-Ponting!, and crowd favourite Mark Cosgrove. Expect Ben Laughlin, Ben Hilfenhaus and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan to cause chaos with early wickets.
Summing up the Hurricanes is strange; they seem to be one legitimate match-winner short. If they had, say, a Vettori, or a Christian, they’d be a lot stronger on paper. But that’s where they’ll get opposition teams.
Likely style of play: A top order capable of big scores, and I feel that Xavier Doherty will be the key in the bowling attack. He’s underrated and will thrive in this competition.
In a word: Inconspicuous.
Melbourne Renegades (Etihad Stadium)
Team Color: ‘Goes Faster’ Red.
Captain: Andrew McDonald. Coach: Simon Helmot.
Players: Ryan Carters, Aaron Finch, Shane Harwood, Aaron Heal, Jayde Herrick, Michael Hill, Brad Hodge, Glenn Maxwell, Andrew McDonald, Brenton McDonald, Dirk Nannes, Nathan Reardon, Will Sheridan, Shaun Tait.
International Players: Abdul Razzaq (Pakistan), Shahid Afridi (Pakistan).
Whomever picked this team loves cricket.
To be more specific, they love fantasy cricket. The entire list is star-studded, comprised of players capable of winning games off their own accord. It’s your best case T20 team; big hitters supported by a bowling battery capable of taking ten wickets each game. Nannes! Harwood! Tait! Razzaq, McDonald, Herrick, and luring in the local crowd with cult hero Brad Hodge. Quite an exciting package.
Parents: want to bring your kids to the cricket? Take them to see the Renegades.
Likely style of play: Fast bowling, big hitting, exciting cricket. Don’t expect it to be boring.
In a word: Winners.
Melbourne Stars (MCG)
Team Color: Look-Into-My-Eyes Green.
Captain: Cameron White. Coach: Greg Shipperd.
Players: George Bailey, James Faulkner, John Hastings, Jon Holland, David Hussey, Alex Keath, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Rob Quiney, Peter Siddle, Chris Simpson, Adam Voges, Matthew Wade, Cameron White.
Overseas Player: Luke Wright (England), Jade Dernbach (England).
The Stars – coincidentally, the team I’ll be supporting – is comprised of leaders. Captained by Cameron White, Australia’s Twenty20 captain, who has strong backup in the form of Adam Voges, Chris Simpson, Dave Hussey, George Bailey, and Mr. Shane Warne – burnt fingers notwithstanding! All of the above have captained their own state teams (and Australia, in Warnie’s case) and have the calm heads and temperament that are crucial to success in this format. With the exclusion of Warnie, they’re all batsmen, and form a good top-order with keeper/batsman Matt Wade.
On paper, I can appreciate the Stars’ bowling attack: Peter Siddle is the sort of quick you can rally around, and he must want to crush heads after the New Zealand test series. Jackson Bird is great, as are Jade Dernbach, James Faulkner, Clint McKay, James Pattinson and Luke Wright – a bowling attack so good I struggle to see where Warnie fits!
Likely style of play: I struggle to see them bowling much spin if Warnie isn’t playing, with Simpson and Hussey probably slowing things down if the pacemen are too expensive. Expect them to bowl heat and chase calmly.
In a word: Considered.
Perth Scorchers (WACA Ground)
Team Color: Moderately-Warm-But-Probably-Not-Scorching Midday-Sun Orange.
Captain: Marcus North. Coach: Micky Arthur.
Players: Tom Beaton, Michael Beer, Mark Cameron, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ben Edmondson, Michael Hussey, Simon Katich, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Marcus North, Nathan Rimmington, Luke Ronchi.
International Players: Paul Collingwood (England), Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa).
I like the Scorchers because I can appreciate their varied skill set. If Shaun Marsh is fit, the top order includes him, Simon Katich, Herschelle Gibbs, Mike Hussey, Marcus North, Luke Ronchi, and Mitchell Marsh. That’s a strong, experienced top seven. Their bowling is fun; Paul Collingwood’s dibbly-dobblers will excel at most grounds around Australia, whilst Brad Hogg would have been one of the best Twenty20 players in the world if the format had taken off earlier. Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Coulter-Nile are matchwinners with the ball.
Likely style of play: A positively vibrant, violent top order, who will set big scores to defend. With that list, you can’t guarantee an opponents success even if they take early Scorchers wickets. Probably a 65/35 split between batting and bowling.
In a word: Intimidating.
Sydney Sixers (SCG)
Team Color: Sultry Pink. Reeee-ow!
Captain: Brad Haddin. Coach: Trevor Bayliss.
Players: Ed Cowan, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, MoisesHenriques, Brett Lee, NicMaddinson, Ian Moran, Peter Nevill, Steve O’Keefe, Ben Rohrer, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Dom Thornley, Shane Watson.
International Player: Michael Lumb (England), Dwayne Bravo (West Indies).
The first of two Sydney-based teams is comprised of more multi-faceted cricketers than you can poke a stump at. The worst possible news for opposition teams is that they can win a match from any position, either batting or bowling: in fact, Moises Henriques, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Steve O’Keefe and Steven Smith have done both in the past.
A youthful bowling attack of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood is offset by Brett Lee’s worthy experience. Brad Haddin can monster big scores, but the player to watch is Ben Rohrer, currently injured, but still SMITING RUNS FROM NUMBER ELEVEN whilst captaining New South Wales. He’s a cult favorite in the wings.
Likely style of play: I don’t think they’ll be scared to mix it up. They have enough depth to throw the ball around and try different things with their batting lineup; for instance, it would be difficult to see Moises Henriques bat down the order all tournament, despite their star-studded lineup. Despite his current test slump, Brad Haddin is a more than capable captain, and will bring his calm, bubblegum-chewing authority to the team.
In a word: Talented.
Sydney Thunder (ANZ Stadium)
Team Color: Snake Poison Green.
Captain: David Warner. Coach: Shane Duff.
Players: Sean Abbott, Tim Armstrong, Nic Bills, Doug Bollinger, Luke Butterworth, Scott Coyte, Tim Cruickshank, Matthew Day, Luke Doran, Ben Dunk, Jason Floros, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Craig Phillipson, Daniel Smith, David Warner.
International Players: Fidel Edwards (West Indies), Chris Gayle (West Indies).
Playing against a top order that includes Chris Gayle, Ben Dunk, Daniel Smith and David Warner is going to be like tossing a coin; if you remove them early, it’s anyone’s game, but if you let them thrive it could be all over very quickly. A bludgeoning top order that hides a young bowling attack underneath it. The bowling attack is inexperienced, and much will rely on Dougie Bollinger (who is surely unlucky not to be playing more international cricket), West Indian import Fidel Edwards, and Tasmania’s Luke Butterworth, whose signing I applaud.
Likely style of play: If they’re not careful, it will be a quick death for opposition teams. The emphasis is on the batting, to the determent of the bowling – although there is certainly room for younguns to shine.
In a word: Brutal.
Relevant links for the Big Bash-inclined:
- One of the best websites I’ve seen – clean! clear! simple! – is the Big Bash Board, by Dean Robinson, a cricket fan and fantastic web designer. It’s worth heading to just for his fantastic (and relevant) cricket blog, and see the Big Bash Teams in a simple-yet-detailed grid view. Brilliant.
- Did you know that the BBL has its own Fantasy League? How about the always friendly and helpful CricketWeb.Net? Goodness! We’re so spoiled!
- Naturally, ESPNCricInfo has a wonderfully up-to-date Big Bash page, and, of course, The Sledge will be keeping everyone updated through our Twitter account.