Which Cricket Team Should I Support in the Big Bash 2016/17?
By Stuart Garlick
The Big Bash League, as with most T20 cricket competitions, presents a new opportunity to pick a favourite cricket team. However, it also brings the cricket fan a major dilemma, as you have to choose a team that might have a whole host of new players. Add to that the problem of relatively new city teams, and it's important to get advice before deciding who to root for. Here's our guide to who to get excited for in the T20 Big Bash League 2016/17.
You're an Annoyed Englishman
It's a fact of life that England fans have had to put up with for decades now that the archaic panel of selectors won't select the best players available to them. Over the years, firebrands like David Gower, Ian Botham and Mike Gatting have been left out for non-cricketing reasons - and a suspicion their face, or stomach, didn't fit - while other world-class guys like Graham Thorpe and Marcus Trescothick have at times chosen not to travel for their own reasons.
England are on tour in India until February 1st, meaning anyone who wants to be in the ODI or T20 squads to face the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni won't be able to play much Big Bash cricket. However, with India such a strong limited-overs side, there's every chance that the Big Bash results might be more comfort to England fans than those of the series they're meant to be following.
Kevin Pietersen, English cricket's enfant terrible or idiot savant, depending on your point of view (Andrew Strauss, the England Director of Cricket, used a more anatomical term to describe him), once again gets the chance to draw attention to himself in the Melbourne Stars line-up, as this most star-studded of teams gets ready for another season of likely underachievement. He's joined by buddy, compatriot and skittish sometime T20-specialist all-rounder Luke Wright.
If KP's genius leaves you cold, you've got a wide choice of other teams, depending largely on your English county allegiance and who your favourite players are. Chris Jordan, who played okay in the Ashes Tour From Hell, is at Adelaide Strikers, Jason Roy sets up at the Sydney Sixers, while Sam Billings will take his gloves to the same side. On the other side of Oz, the Shermanator himself, Ian Bell, will be nurdling the ball around in a nuggety way for the unshowy but very effective Perth Scorchers.
You Like an Underdog Story
Although Perth Scorchers, with their honest brand of grinding cricket, and old favourites like Bell and Mitchell Johnson, are a team that consistently punch above their weight, there's another side that has more than one reason to count on your support, and that's Melbourne's slightly less-starry neighbour to the Stars, the Melbourne Renegades.
Before last season, Melbourne Stars dumped captain Cameron White because the more famous Michael Clarke came onto the market. Clarke then changed his mind about playing, meaning that everyone was left with egg on their faces. White, sensibly, showed two fingers to those who rejected him, moving to Renegades, where he is one of the best players in a superb batting line-up.
The Renegades can't call upon Chris Gayle this season; the West Indies dangerman decided to take time off rather than let Cricket Australia decide whether or not to ban him after last year's sexist interview furore that no-one is calling "Blushgate." However, any top order with White and Aaron Finch, complimented by a middle order featuring West Indies refusenik Dwayne Bravo and on-off Aussie wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, is going to be worth watching. They've also got the coolest 45 year-old in cricket, in oldest man in the BBL, spinner Brad Hogg, who has moved from Perth Scorchers.
If you dislike big-money rich-man's playthings, Melbourne Renegades are the relatively modest side with a shot at a second Big Bash League title.
You Want to See the Best Players Playing in Cool Kits
Sydney Sixers have always carried off the luminous pink kits better than you'd imagine cricketers to do - and one of the reasons for that is because they're among the best Big Bash teams every year. Pretty much every fantasy Big Bash team is going to have a Sixers player in it, and that's because of the side's Barcelona soccer-like stacking of talent. However, the crowded nature of the Big Bash fixture list means some juggling will have to be done.
The heavy compliment of current Australian selection favourites, including Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc (who is struggling with his fitness) requires that alternatives will be needed, as will squad rotation. Thankfully, the able likes of under-used England limited-overs player Jason Roy, along with South African slayer of Aussie batsmen Sean Abbott, have also been signed for the new season. If the Sixers get the balance right, they could just be the T20 Big Bash team for you to support.