Big Bash League gets underway
The world’s second most popular domestic T20 tournament, the Big Bash League, is at last underway, and some of the world’s best short form players are ready to strut their stuff in front of a huge global audience. Heading into the season, the eight teams are incredibly tightly placed, with all of them able to stake a legitimate claim as a contender.
The Adelaide Strikers are marginal favourites after a stirring inaugural championship last season. They will head in with much the same squad, though after so many impressive efforts in 2017/18 they are likely to lose a number of players for large portions of the tournament to international duties. One player who will be available throughout the tournament is Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan leg-spinner who has taken the world by storm in recent years - he enters the 2018/19 Big Bash League as the favourite to take out the player of the tournament award.
Hot on the heels of the Strikers are the perennially successful Perth Scorchers, who have won three championships since the league began in 2011/12. As has been the case for the past few years, it is their bowling which will be a strength, led by Andrew Tye - he boasted the extraordinary strike rate of 8.8 in last year’s tournament, while his spin bowling counterpart Ashton Agar conceded just 5.74 runs per over. They have, however, lost coach Justin Langer, who is now leading the Australian side.
The two Melbourne sides are also well placed to compete at a high level, in particular the Renegades - though they too will be dealing with some absentees as a result of international duties. Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris will be missing from the top order as they represent the Australian test side, but Cameron White, all-rounder Dan Christian (who moved from the Hobart Hurricanes), and Afghani allrounder Mohammad Nabi will provide them with plenty of firepower in the meantime. A key loss, however, is that of Dwayne Bravo - the West Indian all-rounder was their leading wicket taker last season, and his absence will put significantly more pressure on the Renegades’ other strike bowler, Kane Richardson.
The Stars finished dead last in 2017/18, but they look like a team which can challenge this season. To start with, they’ve snared Bravo from their cross town rivals, which will give both their batting and bowling a major boost. Enigmatic big-hitter Glenn Maxwell will return and play a vital role in the middle order, as will Marcus Stoinis, who was one of the best performers in last year’s event. On the bowling side of things, they have lost John Hastings, who was their top wicket taker last season with ten wickets - he was forced to retire for medical reasons.
The Hobart Hurricanes round out the top five favourites. One of the most entertaining and well-rounded rosters in the league, it wouldn’t surprise to see them in the mix at the end of the season. Jofra Archer, one of the most exciting fast bowlers in the world, will return as their strike bowler, while D’Arcy Short was the best batsman in the league last season and will once again feature at the top of their batting lineup. Short scored a monumental 572 runs in the 2017/18 Big Bash season, easily the most in the league, and with three scores of 96 or higher showed that he is more than capable of putting together big scores - and in quick time, too. The Hurricanes have, however, lost wicket-keeper batsman Tim Paine, who is of course now busy being captain of the national Test side.
Each of the Brisbane Heat, Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers also have plenty of talent in their squads, and if things go right could easily be featuring in the finals later on in the season. There is as much talent as there has ever been in the BBL, and with it spread evenly across the eight sides, we are likely in for an exciting two months of T20 cricket.