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The Others

A different type of fantasy cricket.

It seems like expansion of the BBL seems to get brought up every six months or so, and I’ve written about it at length on this site. One of the most common concerns is whether or not their is sufficient player talent around to fill out more than 8 squads. I tend to think that there probably isn’t, and that any expansion would require the existing teams to ‘sacrifice’ a couple of their existing players. That point aside, let’s say that a 9th team had been added just prior to BBL03, but after the other 8 squads had already been sorted out. Are there actually enough players around to fill out this theoretical team?

I’ve already had to re-jig this list a couple of times as guys that I had in my original list got picked up as injury replacements by the real teams – Queensland’s Jimmy Pierson, and Tassie’s Andrew Fekete and Luke Butterworth just to name a couple. I’ve also taken a few ‘creative liberties’ by including a couple of Aussies who’ve been playing County Cricket as ‘local’ players – which I believe should technically be possible according to the new ‘Robson rule’. So as far as I can tell none of the guys I’ve picked below are in a current BBL squad – not including the nominated replacements list that each team has. I’m also ignoring cases where players maybe don’t want to play in the BBL for a particular reason, ie. are guys like Ed Cowan and Chadd Sayers not playing because they don’t want to, or because no-one signed them – I simply don’t know, but for the purposes of this piece, I’m assume they’re available.

Big question, I guess, is would this team actually be any good? Who really knows, I’m just an armchair selector. However, several of the players I’ve picked have played together at domestic level (either here in Australia or over in English County Cricket), so – theoretically – they’d be no more disjointed than any other side in the comp. Is there enough genuine T20 talent in the squad, as opposed to players perhaps more naturally suited to the longer form of the game? I don’t know. Many of the younger players haven’t played much of either at the top level so it is hard to judge. And, would they be able to beat the Thunder? Maybe, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Before I started putting a list together I suspected I’d either end up with a list that collectively was either relatively old or young, but after a quick calculation I’ve found that the average age of this squad would fall in the same 26-29 bracket as the rest of the BBL squads.

If I’m honest I’ve spent way too long trawling through the stats from this year’s Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield, looking through the Future League stats, examining stats from the Friends Life T20 in England. In a fit of madness I even went sifting through the scorecards from this year’s Sydney Grade Cricket T20 comp this afternoon. Can you tell I’m on my Christmas leave, and have some time on my hands…

Overall I’m pretty happy with the list, which at a rough calculation would have a team ranking of around 115-120 on the BigBashBoard (the real BBL teams range from 110-140), the batsmen include a good mix of left and right hand options. Maybe an additional back-up keeper or spinner would be handy? And I would have really liked to get a left-arm quick in but couldn’t track one down. I guess you can’t have everything in fantasy land.

Ok, enough dribble, who’ve I picked.

Batsmen


Ed Cowan
31 – Tasmania – Left-hand Batsmen
Hasn’t played much T20 (just 10 games), probably due to being pigeonholed as more of a long-form specialist. Has only played the solitary BBL game, back in the first season when he was with the Sixers and he didn’t even get a bat, swapped to the Hurricanes for BBL02, but didn’t get a game due to Test duties. This season he’s averaged 31.5 across 6 Ryobi Cup games, and 41.4 after 5 Shield games. Picked for his seniority and cricket brain as much as his ability with the bat. I’d also have Ed as co-captain along with Phil Jaques.

Phil Jaques
34 – Nottinghamshire – Left-hand Batsman
Played for the Hurricanes in BBL01 before opting to switch to English County Cricket on a more permanent basis where he’s been playing for Yorkshire. He came back to Australia for a playing/coaching role in Sydney at the conclusion of the latest county season, but has recently signed a short-term contract for Notts – for Sutherland, he’s currently averaging 28 in T20 and 57 in First Grade. Dependable senior batsman, with a good T20 record at this level – averages a tick under 30, striking at 124.

Scott Henry
24 – New South Wales – Left-hand Batsman
Picked up a single game for the Melbourne Stars at the beginning of BBL02 but only made 6 runs. Currently averaging 36.5 in Shield cricket with an unimpressive strike-rate of 39 – but I’m sure he’d pick that up for the 20-over game. Also averaging 49 at a strike rate of 59 in the Futures League this season.

John Rogers
26 – Western Australia – Left-hand Batsman
Originally from Canberra, played a couple of T20 games for Tasmania in the ‘old’ Big Bash prior to his move to WA. Career limited overs average of 19.75 isn’t impressive, but did lift it slightly in this year’s Ryobi Cup to 24.33 while batting at 3. Averaging 25.44 in Shield cricket this year.

Michael Spaseski
23 – Australian Capital Territory – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Fast-Medium
One of three members of the ACT Futures League team I’ve included, Spaseski is averaging 58 with a healthy strike rate of 72.72 which I’m sure he’d be able to lift in the T20 arena. Cricinfo has him listed an all-rounder, but I’d be looking at just playing him as a batsman – that said, its always good to have options in T20.

Sam Miller
25 – South Australia – Left-hand Batsman – Right-arm Fast-Medium
Has already played for the Prime Minister’s XI, and made his limited overs debut for South Australia during this year’s Ryobi Cup. Only scored a total of 117 runs, but it was enough for him to finish as the Redback’s third highest run scorer (behind Michael Klinger and Tom Cooper), also chipped in with a couple of overs per match.


All-Rounders


Jim Allenby
31 – Glamorgan – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Medium
West Australian plying his trade for Glamorgan in country cricket, career T20 batting average of 29.50, also more than useful enough to chip in with a few overs – has two T20 5 wicket hauls to his name which is no mean feat. Had a cracking Friends Life T20 season during the Aussie winter finishing with 355 runs at an average of 50.71

Paul Stirling
23 – Ireland – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Off-break
The Irish international, who also plays for Middlesex in County Cricket, was handy with both bat and ball during the recent World T20 qualifying tournament. Average 36.50 with the bat and just 11 with the ball, far exceeding his career averages of 25.72 with the bat and just 21.75 with the ball. Would hopefully be available for the full duration of the tournament. Opens for Ireland, but I’d probably play him at 3 while Quinton de Kock is available.

Vele Dukoski
23 – Australian Capital Territory – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Medium
Another from the ACT Futures League side, Dukoski is their leading run scorer through their first two matches (total of 239 at 59.75) and also has a couple of wickets.


Keepers


Quinton de Kock
21 – South Africa – Left-hand Batsman – Wicketkeeper
I had him on my list before he made back-to-back-to-back ODI centuries against the Indians earlier this month. This was based mostly on the quick-fire ton he’d clocked in the Champions League, and a consistent run of knocks against Pakistan during November. Would also be the first-choice keeper while he’s available… and in this make-believe world he’d be available for the first couple of rounds as the South African “Ram Slam” T20 kicks off at the beginning of January.

Cameron Bancroft
21 – Western Australia – Right-hand Batsman – Wicketkeeper
Yet to play any top-level T20 cricket, but played for the Australian Under-19s (averaging 40.45 across 22 matches), and has made his first-class debut this season where he’s currently averaging 35.09 as an opener. Also an option with gloves as a back-up keeper.


Spin Bowlers


Jason Krejza
30 – Tasmania – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Off-break
Lost his Tasmanian contract for 2013/14 after a lean year with the ball, played 4 matches for the Hurricanes and came away wicket-less. Lack of cricket might be a challenge as far as match form goes, but he’s been playing grade cricket for Mosman, and while he hasn’t picked up a stack of wicket he is averaging 25 batting in the top-order during the Sydney Grade Cricket T20 Cup. His experience would be good for the likes of Singh and Devoy.

Manjot Singh
26 – New South Wales – Left-hand Batsman – Right-arm Off-break
Made his first-class debut for the Blues in early December, a spot earned after picking up 11 wickets in a couple of Futures League matches. As a bonus, like Krejza, Singh is also averaging 25 in the Sydney Grade Cricket T20 Cup, which included a quick 57 opening the batting in early November.

Shane Devoy
24 – Australian Capital Territory – Right-hand Batsman – Slow Left-arm Orthodox
ACT’s leading wicket taker after two Futures League matches – includes a healthy return of 9/98 in one innings. Provides another spin option alongside the right-arm off-breaks of Stirling and Singh.


Pace Bowlers


Michael Hogan
32 – Western Australia – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Fast-Medium
A New South Welshman now back playing for WA in Shield cricket, Hogan has also been playing for Glamorgan (with Jim Allenby) in County Cricket where his economy rate in the Friend’s Life T20 was less that 5.5 across his 10 games. Played 8 games for Hurricanes across the first two editions of the BBL. He is the Warriors leading Shield wicket taker this season already with 21 from 5 matches. His experience would make a suitable pace backbone for the side.

Chadd Sayers
26 – South Australia – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Medium
South Australian who only made his limited overs debut for his state in February this year, but has earned big wraps for his work in the Sheffield Shield over the past couple of seasons.

Peter George
27 – South Australia – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Fast-Medium
Played 4 Ryobi Cup games for South Australia during October and collected 6 wickets. Has had a few injury worries across the past couple of seasons

Adam Maher
32 – Tasmania – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Fast-Medium
Currently only playing the occasional Shield game for Tasmania, Maher would provide a rotation option, and back-up, for the other fast men int he squad.


Rookies


Matthew Short
18 – Victoria – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Orthodox
Batsman in the current Australian Under-19 squad, has scored 249 runs at an average of 31.12 in 8 Under-19 ODI matches.

Cameron Valente
19 – South Australia – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Medium
Bowler in the current Australian Under-19 squad, has 19 wickets at 19.63 in 12 Under-19 ODI matches.


International replacement options


Joshua Cobb
23 – Leicestershire – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Leg-break
An international replacement option once Quinton de Kock becomes unavailable. Useful all-rounder that finished 4th in the runs tally during the Yorkshire Bank 40, averaging 52.54 at a strike-rate of 113.77. Opens the batting for Leicestershire in the Friends Life T20, also used an option with the ball – occasionally the new ball.

Sam Robson
24 – Middlesex – Right-hand Batsman – Right-arm Leg-break
Another batting option, hasn’t played T20 since 2011, but is in form and Australian-born. Had a great first-class county season for Middlesex during the Aussie winter, and scored back-to-back hundreds for the “English Performance Program” side, against second XIs from Queensland and WA, a couple of weeks ago.


Coach


The team needs a coach, right? I think if it was at all possible I’d try and lure ex-Aussie quick, double-centurion, and current Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie back to Australia for a couple of months during summer.


Conclusion


Is there enough talent around for more teams in the BBL? Maybe, but it definitely seems like a stretch at the moment. It would require the existing teams being ‘weakened’ for it to be possible, and I don’t think that’s good for anyone. The Big Bash League is off to a flying start in its third year, as great as it would be to see teams in places like Newcastle, Geelong, Canberra or the Gold Coast, I don’t think we’re ready for that. Yet.