BBL|09 season preview: Brisbane Heat
Fruitful off-season headlined by the prized signing of AB de Villiers puts the Heat in title contention
11 December 2019, 03:24 PM AEST
It is a case of new coach, new era for the Brisbane Heat as the their BBL|02 winning coach, Darren Lehmann, returns to the fold.
With no finals action for the Heat in the past two seasons, Lehmann has made it a productive off-season, securing key recruitments both in the international and domestic market.
Chief among those is AB de Villiers, who is expected to set the tournament alight in January, when he arrives for the franchise's final six matches. Prior to that, boom young England opener Tom Banton is set to form a devastating partnership at the top of the order with Max Bryant.
And while that international duo more than make up for the absence of one half of the Bash Brothers in Brendon McCullum, the other half – captain Chris Lynn – has said he is coming into BBL|09 with a "heap of confidence".
Throw in the addition of all-time BBL leading wicket-taker Ben Laughlin and the addition of crafty Afghan spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Zahir Khan, and the squad looks a well-balanced one capable of challenging any side at the business end of the tournament.
2018 result: Fifth
Squad: Chris Lynn, Tom Banton (England), AB de Villiers (South Africa), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan), Zahir Khan (Afghanistan), Ben Laughlin, James Pattinson, Max Bryant, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Sam Heazlett, Matthew Renshaw, Josh Lalor, Mitch Swepson, Jack Prestwidge, Mark Steketee, Jimmy Peirson, Marnus Labuschagne, Matt Kuhnemann, Cameron Gannon, Rookie: Matt Willans
(Players can be added during the tournament if squad members are unavailable due to injury or national selection)
Ins: Tom Banton, AB de Villiers, Zahir Khan, Ben Laughlin, Cameron Gannon
Outs: Brendan Doggett, Alex Ross, Brendon McCullum
Possible Best XI for first game: Tom Banton, Max Bryant, Chris Lynn (c), Matt Renshaw, Sam Heazlett, Jimmy Peirson, Ben Cutting, Mitch Swepson, Josh Lalor, Ben Laughlin, Zahir Khan
The inside word with coach Darren Lehmann
We're really excited by all the international recruits, and the changes overall we've made to the playing staff and the support staff. (Assistant coach) James Hopes has been great, having Ryan Harris on board for the first half (of the tournament) is terrific, then (coaching staff additions) Julia Price and Gavin Fitness both bring experience and they think outside the box. Now it's a case of letting the boys go and play and express themselves on the field. I'm sure they'll play well; they're good lads and they're working hard. Everyone's excited.
We're pretty settled on what we want to do, and how we want to play. Ben Laughlin's going to play (against the Thunder). Then it really depends on (James) Pattinson – if he's available, he'll play. We've got plenty of options with the three spinners so we'll have a look at the wicket and work out our match-ups with the Thunder, then pick the side accordingly. (Josh) Lalor had a good year last year so you'd think he'll play, but we've studied the Thunder pretty well and it'll come down to what match-ups work best for us.
Touch wood, we're all fit and ready to go. After six Shield games and the Marsh Cup, it's handy to have them all pull up alright.
We'll be missing Marnus Labuschagne and Joe Burns (Test duties) and we're just waiting to hear the Test XI which might give us a clearer idea about James Pattinson's availability. Whatever the selectors want to do, we're happy with. Get Australia sorted first, then we'll worry about availability. We've got Tom Banton and Zahir (Khan) for the first half of the tournament and they've both arrived in Brisbane and they're keen as mustard to get going.
We all know what AB de Villiers can do but we're really excited to have Tom Banton join us as well. He'll open the batting as he did with Somerset. He's been likened a bit to Kevin Pietersen the way he bats. He's a good young man, and he's one of those guys I think the team and the Heat fans and family will love, because he just comes with that flair and he's a really humble young man. Mujeeb and Zahir bowl quite fast, they spin it both ways, and they're hard to pick. So you've got to watch them really closely. They've got variety and they have that mystery about them as well, so we're really happy with those two.
I think Matt Renshaw might have a big year. He's struggled a bit in the Shield but the freedom of T20 will suit him, and he found his feet in the Big Bash last year. He's worked on different areas, improved his power game, and he'll have more responsibility this year without (Joe) Burns and Marnus (Labuschagne). He'll be batting a bit higher up the order, filling that AB role for us until he comes, and I'm backing him in to have a really good summer.
Player to watch
Chris Lynn. As captain you want him to play well. He's got a really good record and we want him to be really consistent and dominate games for us and show the world what he can do. He's done that over a long period of time but we want him to drive this team forward as a leader on and off the field, and make enough runs to control and win games for us.
Your biggest strength
The biggest thing that we haven't had in the past is flexibility in our bowling. I'm really happy with that. We've got plenty of options so we can chop and change depending on conditions and who we're playing.
One of the other seven (laughs). T20 is that way – you need luck along the way and it's such a strong competition, and that's what we love in Australian cricket.