It would be easy to forget we are smack bang in the middle of a Test season with Australia’s vital home series against India looming as a post Christmas day hangover. Jostling for our attention like a wind-up toy monkey from the local Chinese discount store, the Big Bash League is noisy and tacky, but oh so hard to ignore.
The biggest draw card in this Big Bash series is undoubtedly Shane Warne.
Warney will rise to the occasion during the 2011 Big Bash!
The home town favorite turn tabloid king may think better of a career in cooking. A mishap flipping bacon caused The King of Spin to sear his bowling fingers just a week out from the Star’s Big Bash opener against Adelaide. Warney’s position in the team may not be as crucial for his bowling, as the confidence it will give the other players. I have always considered Shane to be one of the best tactical captains, and astute mentors in the game.
Matthew Hayden is an interesting one. Haydo looked scratchy 2 years ago, and unlike Warne will have to rely heavily on his eye and reflexes. Will he bring out the Mongoose this time around? I hope so, it’s good for a laugh for Big Bash fans, even though it may be less than effective.
The Big Bash may never soar to the heights of the Indian Premier League, but the new tournament has certainly captured the imagination of the general public. The advertising campaign has been slick – by cricketing standards – with urban centric themes and cross-city rivalries present in much of the marketing material so far. It is a good starting point for a relatively new idea. Previously state rivalries have often failed to capture the imagination of the largely urban dwelling legion of fans, but you would expect a city based competition may garner a little more localised support.
I like the branding of the Melbourne teams. Anyone who has lived, traveled or read about Melbourne would know the city is quite divided in terms of social affiliation and cliche; the Stars and Renegades define this separation perfectly.
The Melbourne Stars are the team appealing to gossip column fashionistas, stay at home Dad’s, frequenters of the Jam Factory gelati store, bogan Australians, young people who have no idea about cricket and Eddie McGuire. The Renegades on the other hand appeal to a vastly different set of Big Bash fanfare. Whether you are a drug afflicted ex prisoner walking the line, part of the hip and ‘alternative’ crowd, a punk rocker who likes to cut himself, or Pakistani national who frequents shisha bars along Sydney Road; this team has you sold.
Melbourne Renegades (6.2 Betfair, 5.5 SportsBet)
Captain: Andrew McDonald
Home Ground: Etihad Stadium
Overseas Players: Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq (both Pakistan)
My pick of the tournament. Shahid Afridi, need I say more. Don’t even bother about his batting, Afridi is a proven match winner with the ball in 20-20. A variation of pace, top-spin and skid has allowed the one they call Boom-Boom to retain his place with the national team on bowling alone, yet on his day can still be the most destructive of batsmen. The biggest worry for the Renegades has to be Shaun Tait. Yes, the big man is lightning, but he also leaks runs at an economy over 7.0 in the shorter format. It is crucial Tait has his radar on for the duration of the Big Bash as one expensive spell could end the Renegade’s tournaments. The suprise packet for mine is Glenn Maxwell, who can score quickly and also bowl tidily. With Brad Hodge back in the team they are surely the team to beat.
Melbourne Stars (6.8 Betfair, 5.5 SportsBet)
Captain: Cameron White
Home Ground: MCG
Overseas Players: Luke Wright and Jade Dernbach (both England)
Whilst Shane Warne attracts the media scrum, you would expect quasi-fringe national players such as David Hussey and Cameron White to use this format as a stepping stone back into contention. Adam Voges will play an important Bevan-esque role in the lower middle order, having to either consolidate an innings or press home the advantage in the post 10 over period. The pace bowling department seems OK, without being brilliant. Jade Dernbach has an arsenal of variations, but is he a one trick pony? India worked him over during the ODI series, it may be a matter of time before other teams start to pick him off. A solid all round team, with a couple of match winners, brilliant captain and a glorious home ground. I expect them to make the semi-finals.
Most runs for series: Aaron Finch (Renegades).
Most wickets for series: Shahid Afridi (Renegades).
Will be putting a further update up tonight, covering all teams in the Big Bash League.
Peace in cricket and Godspeed.