After a couple of "wow moments" in cricket's newest format, a Big Bash standout is out to make amends with the Melbourne Stars
T10 madness the tonic to Dunk's funk
After a rough first season in green in which he admits he "lost trust" in his own game, Melbourne Stars opener Ben Dunk is confident he can recapture his BBL player-of-the-tournament winning form after a "refreshing" stint in cricket's newest – and most volatile – format.
Leading run-scorer of the third and sixth editions of the KFC Big Bash, Dunk had a disappointing first campaign with the Stars last summer in which he managed just 115 runs at 11.50 after crossing from the Adelaide Strikers, mirroring his side’s overall struggles.
Last year’s wooden-spooners’ bid to reverse their fortunes this summer have taken a hit following injuries to prized recruit Nic Maddinson, allrounder Marcus Stoinis, keeper Seb Gotch and paceman Dan Worrall, while Peter Handscomb is also absent due to Test duties.
That’s set to leave the left-hander with an even more prominent role at the top of the order, while Dunk will also be entrusted with wicketkeeping duties in the absence of Gotch and Handscomb.
A short-form specialist more by circumstance and opportunity than by his own design, the 31-year-old was one of six Australians to take part in a recent 'T10' tournament in the UAE and received a dramatic introduction to the condensed slog-fest.
After watching the Shane Watson-led 'Sindhis' side post what appeared a competitive total of 94 from their allotted 10 overs, Dunk watched in wonder as his 'Rajputs' outfit sent 17 of their innings’ first 24 deliveries to or over the boundary to win with six overs to spare.
"I've played cricket for a long time and I thought I'd seen everything," Dunk told cricket.com.au. "Then I had a couple of wow moments while I was over there.
"The first game of the tournament we chased down 94 in four overs. I was sitting there thinking, 'my goodness, what am I watching?'
"In a couple of other games you're in the field and the batter, first ball, runs down the wicket and puts it into the stands. It was amazing viewing. It was really refreshing and good fun."
Dunk admits he's unsure whether the format would work in Australia, noting "we've already got three forms of cricket – do we need another one?"
But just as 20-over cricket has changed the way batters approach the 50-over game, Dunk, whose unique off-season also saw him win a T20 league in Toronto alongside Chris Gayle, believes T10 could see even further innovation to competitions like the Big Bash.
"It opened my eyes in terms of the possibilities you could spring into T20 cricket in terms of match-ups and when it's time for you to go big, how big you can actually go," he said.
"In T20 cricket, a big over can sometimes go for 12 or 15. Whereas in T10, there were overs that went for 20-plus regularly. There might be something there.
"I'd certainly love to play more of it – it's great fun and it's done and dusted in 90 minutes. From a batting point of view, there's not a lot of accountability. The onus is on your strike rate, not on anything else."
It was a welcome change from the cluttered mental outlook he’d developed during his rut for the Stars last summer, with Dunk conceding his issues stemmed from between his ears rather than from technical faults.
"It was certainly tough. I'd come into the season with really high hopes. I'd come off a blast the year before and things just didn't turn out,” said Dunk, who still lives in Hobart but remains without a state contract.
"On reflection, I'd say I just lost a bit of trust in my own game. I started the tournament slowly and found myself trying to catch up and went away from what I do really well.
"It wasn't necessarily anything technical, it was more of a mental flaw in my own game where I just lost that trust in my process or my ability. It's frustrating that I got into that space but I've got an opportunity this year to do things better.
"I've led the runs twice in this competition so I take confidence from that in that I've done it before – there's no reason why I can't do it again."
While he's unsure who might partner him at the top of the Stars' order in Maddinson's absence, Dunk has been impressed by trialist Nick Larkin, an opener for NSW in the Sheffield Shield.
He also believes the club's wrist-spinning stocks are healthy with Nepalese recruit Sandeep Lamichhane along with Adam Zampa and Liam Bowe, each of whose respective variations Dunk is trying to get a grip on as he reprises the keeping gloves.
"Last year didn't go the way we would have liked. It was probably a bit of a line-in-the-sand moment," he said. "A lot of the players are keen to put things right."
The Stars begin their BBL|08 campaign in Canberra against the Sydney Thunder in Canberra on Friday night.