BBL 09 Preview - Melbourne Stars
The Stars have always lived up to their name in regards bringing in high-profile names from both domestic cricket and abroad and this year looks to be no different. Equally, there has been quite a large turnover of personnel from the squad that came so close to winning last year's tournament only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Have they got the right balance to go one better this time around?
Melbourne Stars have released or traded a whopping 8 players from their 2018 squad including big names such as Dwayne Bravo (retired), Jackson Bird (Sixers) and Scott Boland (Hurricanes). Perhaps it's the fact that they used 21 cricketers in last season's BBL that has prompted the Stars to have a rethink about the kind of group that they are trying to build but the reality is that the very nature of their squad means that chopping and changing is likely to occur once more. Marcus Stoinis, Peter Handscomb and Adam Zampa are all likely to be a part of the white ball team that plays for Australia against India in early 2020 and will, therefore, miss a large chunk of the season. Then there is the question mark over Glenn Maxwell and his involvement at both domestic and international level after he took a short break from cricket earlier this year for mental health reasons. Maxwell had taken over the captaincy of the Stars and so it seems likely that he will return from his self-imposed exile and could make an immediate return to the Australian team too.
Another key signing who is only part available for the season is veteran South African fast bowler Dale Steyn who will play the first half dozen matches in this year's tournament. Given that the Stars have chosen to release Bird and Boland much will rest on the shoulders of Steyn who is by far the most experienced fast bowling option for the Stars. Aside from him, the mainstays of the Stars pace bowling attack look likely to be Jackson Coleman a left-armer who has played intermittently in the BBL over the last few years but is coming off a decent 50 over season with Victoria and Daniel Worral who following his international debut in 2016 has seen his career blighted by injury. The right-armer returned late on last season and took 4 wickets against a dangerous Hobart Hurricanes batting line-up to help the Stars to victory in a must-win game. In between times, he signed for English county side Gloucestershire but his spell in the UK was once again cut short by injury and he has played just 2 List A matches this Australian summer. Getting and keeping him fit could be crucial to the Stars chances this year.
Worrall shows why he has played at the highest level with 4 wickets against the Hurricanes
Elsewhere the Stars have taken 2 big names from Perth Scorchers in the form of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Hilton Cartwright. Again Coulter-Nile's involvement is likely to be broken up by a stint with the national team but Cartwright should be available throughout and his experience at this level will be crucial during the middle period of the tournament when the above-mentioned exodus occurs. Indeed it's tempting to say that on paper and at full strength the Stars have the strongest 11 in BBL 09 with power and bowling options aplenty. I guess the question is can those 11 players get enough wins while they are available and can the guys who replace them when they're not keep the points ticking over? It could well come down to the Stars needing to finish strongly in order to make the top 4 in much the same way as happened last year.
With Steyn only available for the first 6 games and several others likely to be part of the Australia set-up the Stars are faced with some wholesale changes as they enter the New Year
One good piece of news for the Stars in regards availability is that Nepalese spinning sensation Sandeep Lamichhane will be available for the whole tournament this year. Lamichhane's involvement last year was split with him having signed a contract in the Bangladesh Premier League and needing to play for Nepal but when he was available his impact was immense. His partnership with young English change-up bowler Pat Brown who will replace Steyn when he departs after 6 matches will be one to watch in the middle overs and when the other big names depart a lot of the Stars hopes of winning matches will rest on those 2 relatively inexperienced players delivering on the big stage.