BBL|09: Nine things to watch out for this season
The ninth edition of the KFC Big Bash League will feature international stars, the very best home-grown talent, and a range of new initiatives to keep things interesting
16 December 2019, 05:57 PM AEST
The South Africans return
When South-African-born Australian Johan Botha left the Hobart Hurricanes early last season, not a single South African remained in the Big Bash League. None. It was a world away from the days of Jacques Kallis crunching boundaries for the Sydney Thunder, Alfonso Thomas bowling at the death for the Perth Scorchers, or Hershchelle Gibbs getting comfortable at the WACA.
This season, the South Africans have returned and they are the biggest of big names.
AB de Villiers won’t arrive in Brisbane until January, but when we does, he’ll arguably bring more star-power to the BBL than we’ve ever seen before. The batting marvel kicks off his Brisbane Heat stint at the Gabba on January 14, before playing a further five games and being available for finals.
Dale Steyn unfortunately won’t cross paths with his long-time national team partner, but he will be here for the start of the tournament. The menacing quick will have to quickly adjust to Australian conditions, playing on the Gold Coast and also travelling to Moe, Launceston, Western Sydney and finally facing the Melbourne Renegades at the MCG.
The third and fourth members of the South African contingent, both flying well under the radar compared to their countrymen, are David Miller (Hobart Hurricanes) and Chris Morris (Sydney Thunder). Both are believed to be available for the entirety of the regular season, although they could miss finals if national duty calls.
The Afghan contingent
In his third season in the Big Bash League, Rashid Khan is now widely known as the best short-form bowler in the world. His position with the Adelaide Strikers remains a huge drawcard for both the club and the league, as fans from around the world tune in to watch the 21-year-old spin his magic.
But there are a trio of Afghan spinners who will be eager to step out of Rashid’s shadow, with each possessing an equally uncanny ability to bamboozle batsmen. Qais Ahmad (Hobart Hurricanes), Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Zahir Khan (both Brisbane Heat) all represented the Afghanistan national team in 2019 and will bring their youthful exuberance to BBL|09.
And let’s not forget the elder statesman of the group, the ever-reliable Mohammad Nabi. Dangerous with both the bat and ball, Nabi will return to the Melbourne Renegades for the third consecutive season after being Afghanistan’s leading wicket-taker at the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Which young Englishman will shine?
Three years ago, more than a few eyebrows were raised when a raw, young bowler arrived at the Hobart Hurricanes. That bowler’s name? Jofra Archer.
While Archer won’t be back this season due to England commitments, there are a number of other promising Englishmen looking to announce themselves in the Big Bash.
Tom Banton (Brisbane Heat) and Phil Salt (Adelaide Strikers) are destructive opening batsmen who burst onto the scene in the recent T20 Blast at home. Liam Livingstone (Perth Scorchers) is another who has impressed overseas, while 21-year-old Pat Brown has the herculean task of replacing Dale Steyn at the Melbourne Stars. Bookmark these names now and watch them shine this summer.
Other Englishmen set to take part in BBL|09 include Harry Gurney and Richard Gleeson (Melbourne Renegades), Chris Jordan (Scorchers), Tom Curran and James Vince (Sydney Sixers) and Alex Hales (Sydney Thunder)
The future is here
In a recent poll of Big Bash players, Josh Philippe of the Sydney Sixers was close to a unanimous choice as the young player most worth watching in BBL|09. There’s little doubt the West Australian keeper-batsman will be thrilling to watch; in January last season, the 22-year-old hit the highest individual score of ANY Sixers batsman, belting 86no against the Hobart Hurricanes.
The truth is, while Philippe will probably draw the most headlines, almost every Big Bash team has an emerging star in their ranks.
Cameron Green’s all-round talents will be a feature of the Perth Scorchers, while Riley Meredith will send down express pace for the Hobart Hurricanes. And with the bat, Max Bryant at the Brisbane Heat and the Sydney Thunder’s Jason Sangha will be two players to watch and they will be on show as early as Tuesday’s season-opener between the two sides at the Gabba.
The Golden Cap
Among the burst of colour and fun of BBL|09, you may notice a splash of gold making its way onto the field of play. For the first time, the league has partnered with BKT Tires to introduce a Golden Cap to be worn by both the leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in the tournament. Caps will be worn by both in the field and swapped either post-match or at the innings break if there is a change in the leaderboard.
Fans will be kept updated on the status of the cap by broadcasters Channel 7 and Fox Cricket, while a running tally will be kept for both the ‘Golden Arm’ and ‘Golden Bat’ at cricket.com.au/big-bash.
Another new venue added!
For the first time, the Big Bash roadshow will stop in Coffs Harbour, when the Sydney Sixers take on the Adelaide Strikers at the Coffs International Stadium on Sunday 5 January.
Before this, a number of secondary markets will also get a taste of the BBL; Alice Springs, Moe, Canberra, Launceston, Geelong and the Gold Coast are all hosting games as the competition extends beyond it’s eight regular home stadiums.
😀😀😀 This week Sixers Daniel Fallins and Justin Avendano visited the Mid-North Coast of NSW ahead of our first ever regional @BBL match in Coffs Harbour, 5 January. Thank you Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Grafton 👊 !! Tickets ➡️ https://t.co/vkBNpmwrGI#smashemsixers pic.twitter.com/pLeEvru6pJ— Sydney Sixers (@SixersBBL) November 7, 2019
The Aussie team returns from India
The schedule of the Australian team has often played havoc with Big Bash availability, with key players sometimes being ruled out at crucial stages of the tournament.
This season appears to be the opposite case, with no national fixtures expected to clash with the latter stages of the season and, more importantly, the BBL|09 finals.
After concluding a Test series against New Zealand on home soil, the Australian team fly to India for three one-day internationals. The final game against India falls on Sunday 19 January, meaning Big Bash teams could have a full complement of players for the last week of the regular season. Which brings us to our next point …
Steve Smith is a Sixer once more
It’s been six years since the best Test batsman in the world pulled on the magenta of the Sydney Sixers and, to make you feel even older, it’s been NINE years since he was given the Sixers captaincy at age 21.
Steve Smith will return to the Big Bash this campaign, in what has rivalled the AB de Villiers news as the signing of the off-season. While known more for his red-ball brilliance, Smith impressed in a recent T20I series against Pakistan, prompting the Sixers to sign him up again.
While he’s one of the few Big Bash players who is expected to represent Australia in both the Test and ODI components of the summer, Smith may play against de Villiers and the Heat on January 23, will almost certainly take part in the Sixers’ last regular season game against the Renegades, and be available for the finals – should his side make it.
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A new way to decide it all
The season is shorter in BBL|09, with all 56 regular season games to be wrapped up by January 27.
What follows will be a five-game finals series designed to reward those who have impressed and claimed the top positions on the ladder.
‘The Eliminator’, ‘The Qualifier’, ‘The Knock-Out’ and ‘The Challenger will all precede the final itself, with the two remaining teams facing off on Saturday 8 January.