Watson lands maiden head coach gig in American MLC

Australian great to coach San Francisco Unicorns in United States T20 competition as influx of Aussie talent unveiled among star-studded overseas signings

Australian great Shane Watson has been appointed to his first head coaching role with the former international allrounder to lead the San Francisco Unicorns in the inaugural Major League Cricket tournament.

Watson will be greeted by an abundance of familiar faces at the Unicorns with the franchise set to have a distinctly Aussie feel for the United States' T20 competition.

Melbourne Renegades batter Mackenzie Harvey on Thursday became the latest Australian to sign up for the 18-day tournament, joining World Cup winner Matthew Wade at San Francisco after the nation's T20 gloveman was unveiled by the Bay Area franchise on Wednesday.

The hard-hitting pair are among five Australians on the Unicorns roster so far with fellow T20 World Cup winners Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis the first overseas signing announced by the franchise in March, while Melbourne Stars quick Brody Couch was drafted as a domestic player owing to his mum's American heritage.

San Francisco has a high-performance partnership with Cricket Victoria with their general manager of cricket performance, Graham Manou, leading the task of setting up the program that has seen Victorian men's assistant coaches Adam Griffith and Ben Rohrer recently travel to the northern Californian city for the club's training camp.

Watson, who had a 150-week streak as the world's No.1 T20I allrounder, began his coaching journey recently, serving as an assistant coach of Indian Premier League franchise the Delhi Capitals under head coach Ricky Ponting for the past two seasons.

The 41-year-old was one of Australia's most destructive white-ball players, winning two ODI World Cups (2007 and 2015), two IPL titles (2008 and 2018), two ICC Champions Trophies (which included player of the match awards in both the 2006 and 2009 finals) and two IPL player of the season awards (2008 and 2013).

"I'm thrilled to be coaching in the first ever Major League Cricket season, which will bring a high standard of T20 cricket to the United States," Watson said.

"Our roster is strong and we benefit from invaluable support from Cricket Victoria."

Watson chats with Delhi Capitals skipper David Warner during the IPL // BCCI-Spotzpics

Also boasting a strong squad is MI New York, who recently announced Mumbai Indians' Australian stars Tim David and Jason Behrendorff would feature in the inaugural MLC tournament.

The West Australian duo played key roles in Mumbai's strong rebound in IPL 2023, with David crunching 231 runs at a strike rate of 158 and Behrendorff claiming 14 wickets in 12 matches as the Indians fell just short in the Qualifier 2 final against Gujarat Titans.

Mumbai Indians legend Kieron Pollard will captain the MI New York franchise with the roster also featuring Afghanistan superstar Rashid Khan, New Zealand ace Trent Boult, South Africans Dewald Brevis and Kagiso Rabada, former West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran and Namibian allrounder David Wiese.

Eight of the nine overseas signings play across multiple MI teams – Mumbai Indians, MI Cape Town and MI Emirates – with Wiese set to make his debut for the Indians family in the MLC.

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As reported by last month, Australia's premier white-ball spinner Adam Zampa has been unveiled by the Los Angeles Knight Riders alongside a star-studded list of international signings that includes Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Jason Roy, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill and Rilee Rossouw.

Breakout Big Bash star Spencer Johnson has also secured a deal with the Knight Riders for his maiden stint in an overseas T20 league, while fellow left-armer Daniel Sams will play for the Texas Super Kings, which will be captained by South African star Faf du Plessis.

Sams last month relinquished his NSW contract to pursue opportunities on the global T20 circuit with America set to be his second stop after a stint with Essex in England's T20 Blast. He will then join Trent Rockets in the Hundred for the second straight season following the MLC.

"T20 cricket is moving rapidly around the globe really fast and it's really exciting to have it in a country that isn't necessarily known for cricket," the 30-year-old said.

"This first season of the MLC is really exciting and personally I'm really excited to be a part of."

Death bowling specialist Andrew Tye will join WA teammate Cameron Gannon at the Seattle Orcas, who was drafted with pick 24 as a domestic player also because of his mum's heritage.

And Washington Freedom have leveraged their high performance partnership with Cricket NSW with Sydney Sixers stars Moises Henriques, Josh Philippe and Ben Dwarshuis signing on for the 2023 season that gets underway on July 13.

Australians in Major League Cricket

Los Angeles Knight Riders: Adam Zampa, Spencer Johnson

MI New York: Tim David, Jason Behrendorff

San Francisco Unicorns: Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Mackenzie Harvey, Brody Couch (domestic)

Seattle Orcas: Andrew Tye, Cameron Gannon (domestic)

Texas Super Kings: Daniel Sams, Cameron Stevenson (domestic)

Washington Freedom: Moises Henriques, Josh Philippe, Ben Dwarshuis