The KFC Big Bash League is back for its 2015-16 edition, and it’s going to be massive and exciting just like the last edition. Eight clubs are participating in a thrilling T20 group-and-knockout tournament to be crowned the T20 champion of Australia. This is your complete guide to how each team has changed from the last edition with a discussion of their key players, strengths, weaknesses as well as match predictions of where each team will end on the table after the group stage is over.
Mahela Jayawardene (SL), Brad Hodge, Jono Dean, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Alex Keath, Ben Laughlin, Hamish Kingston, Jake Lehmann, Tim Ludeman, Gary Putland, Michael Neser, Kane Richardson, Craig Simmons, Alex Ross, Kelvin Smith, Adil Rashid (Eng), and Billy Stanlake.
Players In: Mahela Jayawardene, Jake Lehmann, Alex Keath (Stars), Billy Stanlake, and Adil Rashid.
Players Out: Trent Lawford (Sixers), Johan Botha (Sixers), Kieron Pollard (Inj), Shaun Tait (Hurricanes), Chadd Sayers, and Adam Zampa (Stars).
Strikers’ squad is expected to go through the tournament without a player being called up for international duty unless in the case of an injury. Jon Holland, a left-arm spinner, is the player most likely to be called upon, whereas Kane Richardson has a small chance to be called up to the limited overs squad, provided he starts the tournament well.
Adelaide Strikers Strengths
With a settled team, Strikers’ lineup appears to be a strong contender for the best batting line-up of the competition, even if it is missing the hard-hitting Kieron Pollard due to an injury. It has a good mix of batsmen who can thrash and be trusted to anchor the innings.
Adelaide Strikers Weaknesses
Shaun Tait’s absence can be the cause of struggling for early wickets with the new ball. The departure of Zampa and Botha means that all their spin hopes now rest on the shoulders of Holland, who has often been failed by his body. The presence of veterans including Jayawardene, Hodge, and Simmons means that it is most likely to be the slowest team on the field.
Adelaide Strikers Key Player
Travis Head is the key player for Strikers as they will be relying on the 21-year-old left-hander to carry out all-out attacks as the veterans anchor innings. Captaincy has been given to Hodge instead of Travis, which is a smart call as it will let him focus exclusively on batting.
The One to Watch
Ben Laughlin has only played three T20 internationals, which is not enough recognition for the proven performer of the short format. However, this is most likely to be remedied in the upcoming World Twenty20 Cup to be played in March on Indian grounds. The 2011 World Cup was the last time Australia played a tournament in India and its pace strategy fell short. However, the task of replacing Mitch Starc may fall on the shoulders of Ben Laughlin this time around.
Strikers are likely to cause some upsets, but its final ranking will be 6th on the table.
Samuel Badree (WI), Lendl Simmons (WI), Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Nick Buchanan, Alex Doolan, Luke Feldman, Andrew Fekete, Jason Floros, James Hope, Peter Forrest, Josh Lalor, Jimmy Peirson, Chris Lynn, Nathan Reardon, Mark Steketee, Jack Wildermuth, and Mitch Swepson.
Players In: Samuel Badree, Andrew Fekete (Renegades), Alex Doolan (Renegades), Josh Lalor (Thunder), Luke Feldman (Stars), Jack Wildermuth, and Mitch Swepson.
Players Out: Daniel Christian (Hurricanes), James Bazley, Andrew Flintoff, Ryan Duffield, Cameron Gannon (Renegades), Alister McDermott (Thunder), Mitch Johnson, Stephen Parry, Simon Milenko (Hurricanes), Daniel Vettori, and Shane Watson (Thunder).
Brisbane Heat Availability
Joe Burns will miss out on most of the season’s first half due to International Test duty. Chris Lynn’s good start in the tournament can see him getting a call up to the limited-overs team as selectors are formulating a squad for the World Twenty20 Cup.
Brisbane Heat Strengths
Its biggest strength is the stability of the team. Good performance from two of its three key batsmen (Chris Lynn, Lendl Simmons, and Nathan Reardon) can see it posting and chasing some huge totals.
Brisbane Heat Weaknesses
James Hopes is a cracking player but is no longer reliable with the bat, which poses the problem of a severe lack of genuine all-round players in the team. Peter Forrest and Alex Doolan are still to prove themselves as reliable batsmen for the short format, and a weak bowling attack means its batting line-up is in to chase some hefty totals.
Chris Lynn is arguably one of the most talented and destructive batsmen in the country and more important to Brisbane than any other player in the tournament. Although he did suffer a shoulder injury in the domestic season, his performances in club cricket suggest he has recovered well.
The One to Watch
Nick Buchanan who is also the son of John Buchanan, a former Australian coach, although injury has limited the pacer to just two matches. He has a reputation for being scarily fast. However, his body is so fickle that Queensland had to tailor his playing and fitness program so that he can be fit for this tournament.
Weakest team in the tournament without a doubt, Brisbane is expected to finish 8th.
Kumar Sangakkara (SL), George Bailey, Darren Sammy (WI), Shaun Tait, Cameron Boyce, Ben Dunk, Daniel Christian, Micheal Hill, Jake Reed, Sam Rainbird, Clive Rose, Tim Paine, Simon Milenko, Beau Webster, Timm van der Gugten, Jon Wells, Joe Mennie, and Dom Michael.
Players In: Kumar Sangakkara, Daniel Christian (Heat), and Simon Milenko (Heat).
Players Out: Alex Hales, Ryan Lees, Sean Willis, Travis Birt, Ben Hilfenhaus (Stars), and Evan Gulbis (Stars).
George Bailey, the team captain, is the only player likely to be unavailable as he will join the ODI team during the second half of the league. Ben Dunk might be in contention to replace Matthew Wade for the wicket keeper’s position if the selectors decide to choose him for World Twenty20.
Hobart Hurricanes Strengths
The Hurricanes has a well-balanced squad without any apparent weaknesses to account for. Shaun Tait and Jake Reed are expected to take the place of Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins, who are out due to injury. With two of the fastest bowlers in its squad, all-round players such as Sammy and Christian give them the flexibility to pick an extra bowler or batsman.
Hobart Hurricanes Weaknesses
Tait and Reed may be conceding more than expected if their radars go awry and the same can be said for Christian and Sammy. A lack of economic bowlers and the hole that will be left by the departure of Bailey are the two main weaknesses of the Hurricanes.
Even the addition of Kumar Sangakkara can’t take the spotlight away from Ben Dunk, who is expected to make significant contributions if the Hurricanes are to amass large totals. His form across all formats show that he is among the most improved players in Australia and his combination with Sanga will be key for the Hurricanes.
The One to Watch
Cameron Boyce is the incumbent T20 spinner for Australia’s international team, but his poor form in the domestic circuit makes that fact forgettable. He has a point to prove in this tournament if he wants to be the first choice of Australian selectors for the main T20 event in March.
The Hurricanes are expected to finish 3rd due to their strong middle order and fast-bowl attack.
Dwayne Bravo (WI), Tom Beaton, Tom Cooper, Aaron Finch, Xavier Doherty, Cameron Gannon, Nathan Hauritz, Chris Gayle (WI), Peter Nevill, Nate Rimmington, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Matt Short, Guy Walker, Matthew Wade, Chris Tremain, and Cameron White.
Players In: Xavier Doherty (Hurricanes), Chris Gayle, Cameron Gannon (Heat), Nathan Hauritz (Thunder), Guy Walker, and Chris Tremain (Thunder).
Players Out: Fawad Ahmed (Thunder), Alex Doolan (Heat), Callum Ferguson (Inj.), Andrew Fekete (Heat), Aaron O’Brien, Jayde Herrick, Ben Rohrer (Thunder), Nick Winter (Inj.), and Andre Russell (Thunder).
Renegades will be without the services of Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade for the second half of the tournament and Peter Nevill will be expected to take on the wicket-keeping duties in the second half. Peter Siddle will be unavailable for the first half due to Test duty, whereas Pattinson is only expected to make a few cameos.
Melbourne Renegades Strengths
The Renegades were boasting an imposing batting line-up, but that has been undermined due to the long-term knee injury faced by Callum Ferguson right before the tournament. However, Tom Beaton and Tom Cooper are capable replacements for Callum in the middle order. The spin attack of Doherty and Hauritz will be a plus point for their home drop-in pitches. No overseas players to grapple with for availability in the tournament.
Melbourne Renegades Weaknesses
Pattinson’s absence throughout the tournament due to international duty leaves them without a strike-bowler. Dwayne Bravo is the only all-rounder that can offer something with the bat.
Chris Gayle is, without a doubt, the key player for the Renegades, although he has a lot to prove this season after his awful stint in Australia last time around with Sydney Thunder. The departure of team captain Aaron Finch is a cause of worry and the Renegades will be expecting Chris Gayle’s T20 experience to see them through.
The One to Watch
Due to the absence of Pattinson and the fact that Siddle is still unproven with a white ball, Chris Tremain is the key to the Renegades’ express-pace attack. Tremain is expected to not only get early wickets with the new ball, but his hostility makes him a valuable asset against batsmen looking to plunder runs.
The absence of Callum Ferguson and unavailability of Pattinson and Finch mean it is not the strongest team, but it is still expected to finish 4th.
James Faulkner, Kevin Pietersen (Eng), Glenn Maxwell, Luke Wright, Michael Beer, Seb Gotch, Scott Boland, Evan Gulbis, Sam Harper, Peter Handscomb, David Hussey, Ben Hilfenhaus, John Hastings, Rob Quiney, Tom Triffitt, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa, and Daniel Worrall.
Players In: Sam Harper, Seb Gotch, Evan Gulbis (Hurricanes), Adam Zampa (Strikers), and Ben Hilfenhaus (Hurricanes).
Players Out: Cameron White (Renegades), Jackson Bird (Sixers), Alex Keath (Strikers), Clive Rose (Hurricanes), Luke Feldman (Heat), and Clint McKay (Thunder).
Losing Faulkner and Maxwell for the second half of the tournament is inevitable, and Hastings has a chance of being called up to the limited-overs team as well due to his impressive display in the ODI series in July against England.
Melbourne Stars Strengths
Just like the Hurricanes, the Stars’ squad seems to have covered all the bases and looks like a well-balanced team. Even after losing Faulkner and Maxwell, it will have enough depth due to the likes of Quiney and Gulbis to ease the blow. Its batting is strong, so expect Melbourne to post some heavy totals in the tournament.
Melbourne Stars Weaknesses
Having relied on Jackson Bird for the last four years as its dependable pacer, his exit this year will be sorely felt by the Stars, even though they boast a strong pace line-up. Lacking an express-pace bowler means they will struggle in getting early wickets with the new ball.
After having an excellent debut, Kevin Pietersen seems to have made peace with the end of his international career, which allows him to focus more on tournaments such as these. Kevin is in good form, evident from his performance in SA’s domestic competition as he prepared for the Big Bash League.
The One to Watch
Adam Zampa can prove to be the best recruit of the season with his aggressive leg-spinning, good fielding abilities and the fact that he can bat at No. 7 makes him a great pick for the short-format.
One of the strongest squads of the tournament, the Stars are expected to finish at the 2nd spot.
Brad Hogg, Marcus Harris, Sam Whiteman, Adam Voges, Andrew Tye, David Willey (Eng), Ashton Turner, Joel Paris, Micheal Klinger, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Michael Carberry (Eng), James Muirhead, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Cameron Bancroft, and Simon Mackin.
Players In: Cameron Bancroft, David Wiley, and Simon Mackin.
Players Out: Hilton Cartwright and Yasir Arafat.
Adam Voges will miss most of the tournament’s first half due to Test duty and the same goes for Shaun Marsh, who may even miss the second half if he gets a recall. Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitch Marsh aren’t expected to play much either due to International duty, whereas Joel Paris may earn a call-up to the limited-overs team.
Perth Scorchers Strengths
The first half of the tournament will be difficult for Perth, but if it is in a decent position by then, the return of Voges and Mitch Marsh means it’ll be able to secure a place in the finals. It is arguably the best fielding side, even with veterans such as Klinger, Hogg, and Carberry. Having the biggest home-ground advantage in the tournament due to its passionate fans makes it a strong contender for the tournament.
Perth Scorchers Weaknesses
Its performance in the tournament depends a lot on the international selection, but what will hurt it more is the fitness issues of its best pacer Jason Behrendorff. Even if declared fit, he’ll not be able to get to his peak.
The 35-year-old Michael Klinger would be playing Internationals in limited-overs if age wasn’t a factor. His impressive record in recent years and his fitness training that enables him to hit the ball longer and run faster is what drives him to success. He can score at a strike rate faster than you’d expect.
The One to Watch
David Wiley has benefited greatly from the shift in England’s selection to favor promising players over long-term senior players due to his performances at the domestic level. Son of a former umpire, Wiley is a bowling all-rounder who is capable of hitting it for the maximum in the later part of the innings. His seam bowling means he will have to fill the void that is expected to be created due to Behrendorff’s fitness.
If international selection and fitness decisions go their way, the Scorchers will finish 1st after the group stage.
Doug Bollinger, Jackson Bird, Johan Botha (SA), Sean Abbott, Ryan Carters, Ben Dwarshuis, Ed Cowan, Brad Haddin, Trent Lawford, Josh Hazlewood, Michael Lumb (Eng), Moises Henriques, Steve Smith, Jordan Silk, Nic Maddinson, Nathan Lyon, and Steve O’Keefe.
Players In: Johan Botha (Strikers), Jackson Bird (Stars), and Trent Lawford (Strikers).
Players Out: Simon Keen, Trent Copeland, Brett Lee (Retired), Riki Wessels (Eng), and Mitch Starc (Inj.).
Hazlewood and Smith are unavailable for most of the tournament and will only be able to make a cameo or two. Nathan Lyon may get the limited-overs berth, which is a looming threat for the Sixers.
Sydney Sixers Strengths
A pace attack of Abbot, Bird and Bollinger is its biggest strength. The Sixers has enough batting depth that Carters and Cowan may struggle for regular spots and it has plenty of options in the bowling department as well, especially if Trent Lawford performs well, which will give the team more flexibility.
Sydney Sixers Weaknesses
Bird and Bollinger could be targeted by opposition teams. Silk’s last season finish was strong as he adapted to the finisher role. However, his failure to replicate that performance this season can be a cause of trouble for the Sixers.
Nic Maddinson is a destructive player, although he has done enough to be rated as a serious batting prospect for the national team. On his way to becoming a regular international player for Australia, Maddinson has a lot to offer this season to the Sixers.
The One to Watch
His test career is almost over, but Doug Bollinger still has what it takes to be a prolific T20 bowler where he only has to bowl four overs, so endurance is not an issue. The Big Bash League is his chance to convince the selectors that he can replace Mitch Starc, who is out for World Twenty20 Cup due to long-term injury. Although he is not a like-for-like replacement for Starc, selectors may have to rely on Bollinger for the main event.
The Sixers may just edge their way into the finals, but the current squad and form indicates it’ll finish at the 5th spot.
Fawad Ahmed, Aiden Blizzard, Ahillen Beadle, Jake Doran, Chris Hartley, Chris Green, Mike Hussey, Usman Khawaja, Jacques Kallis (SA), Alister McDermott, Clint McKay, Andrew McDonald, Ben Rohrer, Kurtis Patterson, Andre Russell (WI), Shane Watson, and Gurinder Sandhu.
Players In: Fawad Ahmed (Renegades), Clint McKay (Stars), Alister McDermott (Heat), Ben Rohrer (Renegades), Shane Watson (Heat), and Andre Russell (Renegades).
Players Out: Nathan Hauritz (Renegades), Pat Cummins (Inj.), Daniel Hughes, Ian Moran, Josh Lalor (Heat), Eoin Morgan, Dirk Nannes, and Chris Tremain (Renegades).
The decision of whether to include Shane Watson in the ODI squad will have a great impact on his availability in the second half.
Sydney Thunder Strengths
Hussey, Watson, and Kallis are three of the best limited-overs players that International cricket has produced, and the availability of Watson for most of the tournament will have a huge impact on the performance of the Thunder. Russell will provide some hard-hitting finishing that is greatly needed in the lower order of the Thunder.
Sydney Thunder Weaknesses
Two of its big players are at the end of their careers, which means if they are going to take Thunder to success, it has to be now. Russell is its only bowler who can reach 140km/h, which is surprising considering its tail is obviously long.
Shane Watson’s fitness and all-round performance with the bat and ball can take Thunder close to the title. Watson would love to play ODIs for Australia, but his exclusion can greatly help Thunder and help him focus on his T20 career.
The One to Watch
Andre Russell joins Thunder from Renegades and is a reputable bowling all-rounder. His batting ability in T20 is as valuable as his bowling. Russell is not an economical bowler, but his batting gives the much-needed firepower to the Thunder in the lower order.
Thunder’s performance relies heavily on just one player i.e. Shane Watson, which is why there’s a good chance it’ll fail to secure a place in the finals. Expected to finish 7th, but Watson is fully capable of taking it to Big Bash League glory.