If the heat down under or the intensity with which the national team has performed so far during the summer wasn’t enough, there is more action that awaits the fans. One of the biggest cricketing festivals among the shortest formats of the game embarks on its ninth edition from the 17th of December. The Big Bash League (BBL) witnessed a wide array of fan following its revolution in the year 2011-12 to establish the concept of franchises and doing away with having state-oriented teams.
Every T20 team all over the world needs one X-factor in the world – one that can consistently make a significant contribution to the team’s cause. And in a tournament as long and competitive as the BBL, a side may need to find more than one game-changers. Over the years, several players like Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Aaron Finch, Chris Gayle, Chris Lynn have all stepped up for their franchises to win several games for their respective teams.
Ahead of the forthcoming season of the BBL extravaganza, we take a look at one top player from each side:
Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Australia’s gloveman in limited-overs cricket has undergone a year to remember. Before the World Cup, Alex Carey mainly came at the back end of the innings and hence couldn’t showcase his full potential. Having been chosen to represent the defending champions at the grandest stage, Carey justified his debatable selection by finishing as one of the best batsmen in their ranks.
The 28-year old notched up 375 runs in only ten games at an average of 62.50, striking at 104.17. He went from strength to strength as the tournament progressed and flourished in tricky situations in which his colleagues wilted. The performances in the World Cup have fixed his spot in Australia’s limited-overs set up.
The South Australian had a compelling Big Bash League last time, scoring 329 runs in 12 games. With the up-gradation of his skills since the last time, the southpaw is one of the most crucial players to Adelaide Strikers’ fortunes in the batting department.
AB De Villiers (Brisbane Heat)
Such is the batting stocks which the Brisbane Heat has accumulated this year that it is difficult to judge who would end up as the top performer. There is the T20 powerhouse, Chris Lynn; there is the growing hunger in the young sensation, Tom Banton, and the presence of Max Bryant, who is proving his potential with every passing season. Among all of them, the one who stands out is the South African batsman Abraham Benjamin De Villiers, who has internationally proven himself.
Brisbane Heat announced the deal of retired T20 superstar’s debut in the BBL at the end of September. One of the hottest free agents, the 35-year old is the finest addition to any T20 side, capable of destroying any bowling attack on his day. He can also clear any side of the ground from any part of the crease. Further, De Villiers has been in sensational touch in this edition of Mzansi Super League with 274 runs from eight games.
With an experience of over 300 games in T20 cricket and a strike rate of more than 150, the Proteas’ batsman is a trump card and can turn the fortunes of the franchise. Not only with the bat but De Villiers’ electrifying presence on the field cannot be discounted. The arrival of him in the second half of the tournament bodes perfectly well for Brisbane Heat as he would compound the strength of the middle-order for critical games.
D’arcy Short (Hobart Hurricanes)
Just when it looked like D’arcy Short was starting to cement his spot in Australia’s T20 team, David Warner’s return to the fold sidelined him. He made his T20I debut in 2018, helped by his prolific run-scoring in the BBL in which he scored 572 runs in 11 games.
The southpaw may not be in the national team’s plans for now; however, he is a giant when it comes to the Big Bash League. Playing for Hobart Hurricanes, Short finished as the highest-run getter in the last two seasons with 637 and 572 runs respectively. Hence, the 29-year old would once again start as their most indispensable player.
D’arcy Short will regroup with the likes of Matthew Wade, George Bailey, Ben Mcdermott, David Miller, Jake Doran, James Faulkner to take Hobart Hurricanes two steps ahead of the previous season. Another heavy run-scoring tournament can enable the left-hander to be in Australia’s T20 plans as a backup opening batsman for the next year T20 World Cup.
Shaun Marsh (Melbourne Renegades)
The defending champions welcome one of BBL’s highest run-scorers from Perth Scorchers. The veteran, with 1435 runs in 37 matches, currently sits at number ten in tournament’s run-scoring history. Melbourne Renegades’ coach, Micheal Klinger, condoned his selection by saying that he is in a great form and being a star player, particularly the calibre he possesses would be a big boost.
Indeed, the 36-year old has been in excellent touch of late. Marsh amassed 389 runs in eight games at an average of 55.57 in the Marsh One-day Cup for Western Australia. The veteran also struck a patient hundred against Queensland as his side went on to lift the trophy. The Western Australian had the chance to feature only in three games in the previous season for Perth Scorchers, but he still averaged 49 in those limited opportunities.
As Aaron Finch is most likely to depart for India during the tournament, Marsh, with all his experience, would be the mainstay of their batting line-up during his absence.
Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
The Victorian all-rounder announced his comeback for the upcoming tournament, having opted out of the sport indefinitely two months ago. Prior to taking an indefinite break from cricket, Glenn Maxwell scored a breezy knock of 62 against Sri Lanka in the first T20 of their summer after a disappointing World Cup campaign.
Having Maxwell back in their ranks as a captain would very much boost the spirit of the side. In addition to his game-changing persona with the bat, the 31-year old’s useful off-spin and inspiring display on the field can produce breakthroughs out of nothing. Maxwell finished with 330 runs in 11 innings the previous season at a strike rate of 145.37.
As a captain, the Victorian would want to marshall Melbourne Stars to the title this time after they choked in the final on the previous occasion to concede the crown to Melbourne Renegades. A mentally fit Maxwell can fire on all the cylinders which would augur well even for the national team ahead of the T20 World Cup next year.
Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Ashton Agar is famously known for his innings of 98 on his Test debut while batting at number eleven. With Australia tottering at 117-9, Agar strode out and stitched a stand of 163 with Phillip Hughes to thrust his side to 280. In the next few years, the 26-year old remained in and out of the national team; however, he steadily kept contributing to the Scorchers’ cause.
Since the start of the Australian summer, Agar has played in all the T20s, and his performances have signalled that he is pivotal to Australia’s chances in the T20 World Cup next year. He finished with economy rates of 5.33 and 6.45 against Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively with seven wickets in two series across six T20s.
Presently the three-time champions are depleted, having seen the departures of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Michael Klinger, Hilton Cartwright, and Shaun Marsh. They also have been hit by injuries to their bowlers in Jason Behrendorff and Andrew Tye who are likely to miss out on playing this season. Going by his current form, the Victorian is a critical player with both bat and the ball.
While Agar doesn’t have a compelling record in the Big Bash League, the left-arm bowler must use his experience of six seasons and the present form to help Perth Scorchers recover from their terrible last season.
James Vince (Sydney Sixers)
The Englishman gave himself a new lease of life following his awful display in the World Cup campaign. James Vince came into the side following an injury to Jason Roy, but scores of 26, 14, and 0 in his outings as an opening batsman mounted pressure on the middle-order.
The Hampshire batsman announced his comeback by performing relatively better in New Zealand in the T20 internationals. He crunched a fifty in the very first game of the five-match series and secured the man of the match award. The 28-year old ended the segment with 110 runs in four games at a strike rate of 132.54.
Vince’s form for Hampshire has also been encouraging, having scored 407 runs in 13 games in the Vitality Blast 2019. He featured in eight games for Sydney Sixers last time, mustering 269 runs and striking at 136.55. With the Sixers possessing a relatively inexperienced batting line-up, Vince’s presence at the top gives them a lot of assurance and can be relied upon to anchor the innings.
Callum Ferguson (Sydney Thunder)
Callum Ferguson was one of the most competent and elegant middle-order batsmen that walked into the Australian team a decade ago. He settled in the unit quickly, and his match-winning performances had his place guaranteed his place in the side. Unfortunately, a knee injury in the same year dented his chances of making a comeback to the national team.
Yet, the 35-year old is a very dependable batsman for Sydney Thunder. With 442 runs in 14 games, including a hundred in the previous season, the South Australian would have the responsibility to carry the hopes of a relatively inexperienced side in the upcoming season. The retirement of Shane Watson following the last season further builds the experienced veteran as the most vital cog in this line-up.
The likes of Usman Khawaja, Chris Morris, and Alex Hales will also be likely available for the franchise for the greater part of the tournament. Sydney Thunder would be looking forward to more substantial contributions from the trio to finish higher than number six on this occasion.
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