Strikers hold firm as BBL clubs eye international stars
With just two internationals locked in to return for BBL|10 the uncertain landscape caused by COVID-19 is creating headaches and opportunities for clubs
14 May 2020, 05:48 PM AEST
As KFC BBL franchises look to attract big-name international talent for the landmark tenth season of the tournament, Adelaide Strikers captain Travis Head says he expects his side to be largely unchanged this summer.
English pair Tom Curran (Sydney Sixers) and Tom Banton (Brisbane Heat) are currently the only foreign players contracted for BBL|10 and with Cricket Australia and the players' association still negotiating how players will be paid amid the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Bash clubs remain under a contracting embargo that could exist until the new financial year.
However, Hobart Hurricanes have already expressed confidence in seeing England pace ace Jofra Archer back in purple this summer, while Pakistan speedster Haris Rauf has expressed a desire to continue with Melbourne Stars.
And long-time Strikers player and fan-favourite Rashid Khan, the world's top-ranked T20 bowler, has pledged his future to the club despite receiving hot offers from at least two rival franchises.
"I'm quite happy playing for Adelaide, and I'll be playing here as long they need me and they want me," Rashid, who has not yet officially re-signed with the Strikers, told cricket.com.au in February.
BBL clubs are under pressure to attract the leading international talent this summer and the recent loosening of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions has raised hopes the tournament will again take centre stage.
In addition to all bilateral international cricket, the Men's T20 World Cup faces an uncertain future for its planned mid-October start-date, and any move to push it to the back end of the Australian summer could make the BBL more attractive for players as a precursor to that tournament.
Australia is currently looking well positioned to be able to deliver biosecurity plans to allow international players to feature in the tournament, which may help give the BBL an edge over T20 leagues in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Amid all the uncertainty, the Strikers – who had England big-hitter Phil Salt join Rashid as their overseas players last summer – are confident of keeping their group together, with nine local players already contracted to return.
"One thing the Strikers have been very strong at over the entirety of the Big Bash is we've been able to keep a structure of players together," Head said today.
"And this playing group is the same playing group that won it a couple of years ago.
"We probably missed our mark and missed a chance in the semi (in BBL|09). That was the most disappointing part, knowing that you've got the squad and knowing you've got the team to mix it at the back end of the tournament.
"We had an extremely enjoyable time over those six weeks, and when I came back (from international duty) those last four weeks were that much fun with the playing group.
"I'd be disappointed to see change at all and I don't think there will be."
Cricket Tasmania chief Dominic Baker said this week that Archer was "more of a chance now (of playing BBL) than he ever has been" given the uncertainty currently surrounding international cricket.
"They (England) are not going to get a season so I wouldn't be surprised if they are keen to allow their players to get out wherever they've got contracts and play to get some cricket back into them," Baker said.
"And he is still on our list, so hopefully yes as we'd love to see him come back."
Archer was contracted to the Hurricanes last summer but international commitments and an elbow stress fracture kept him out of the entire competition.
Former Sydney Thunder and Australia star Shane Watson, who is now president of the Australian Cricketers' Association, has called for an increase to "three, if not four" international players in each side, and to ditch travelling to regional venues.
The BBL has played games in venues such as Alice Springs, Geelong, Canberra, the Gold Coast, Moe and Launceston in recent seasons, outside of the major cities.
Other ideas, such as creating a window for Australia's international stars to feature in the competition after the Sydney Test, and splitting the match into four innings, have all been mooted.
Adelaide Strikers BBL|10 squad: Travis Head, Michael Neser, Harry Nielsen, Matt Short, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Cam Valente, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells.