Dizzy's inside word on the Strikers
A couple of big-name internationals, as well as a few local stars in the making are on board for Adelaide's BBL title-tilt this summer
21 December 2016, 11:00 AM AEST
The KFC Big Bash League kicked off last night and after all the build-up and hype, everyone is glad to see the competition underway. This will be my second season as coach of the Adelaide Strikers and my first since quitting my post at Yorkshire and moving back to Australia. We finished top-of-the-table in BBL|05 before going down to eventual champions Sydney Thunder in the semis. I’ve been very impressed with our preparation, we’ve had two very good practice games amongst ourselves in the lead-in to our first game against the Brisbane Heat on Wednesday. The boys are hungry to go one better this summer and I reckon we’ve got a squad capable of lifting the trophy next month.
Ben Dunk has been particularly impressive in our two practice games. He got two decent scores of 67 and 79, his strike-rate was hovering around 180 in those knocks and it looks like he’s in very good shape heading into the first game. We secured the services of Ben for this season from the Hobart Hurricanes via a trade, with us giving up allrounder Hamish Kingston to return to his hometown. Ben’s a big-hitting top-order player who was the player of the tournament in the BBL a couple of years ago. He hasn’t been wicket-keeping for his state side Tasmania recently but he’s more than capable behind the pegs and he’ll take the gloves for our opening game.
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We have however been dealt a bit of a blow in the lead-in to this tournament with the news that our left-arm spinner Jon Holland will be out of action for the beginning of our campaign with an ankle injury. Jon played the majority of the games last year for us and has become one of the best spinners in the country - he’s been in top form for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield, so hopefully we get him back at some stage.
On top of that, our star overseas leg-spinner from last summer, Adil Rashid, looks likely to be involved with England’s limited-overs squads in India, meaning it doesn’t look like he’ll be around for us at all. He’s has been going so well for England that they’re keeping him for all forms of the game at the moment!
But while it’s tough to lose two players who were integral to our success last year, we’ve brought in a couple of replacements I reckon Strikers fans will be excited about. First of all, we’ve secured another Englishman, Chris Jordan, to come in for Adil and although he’s a different cricketer to ‘Rash’ - he bowls seam instead of leggies – he brings a lot to the table for us. He’s a very good death bowler – one of the best going around at nailing yorkers towards the end of an innings. Plus he’s an outstanding fielder. He’s taken some ridiculous catches for England in recent years! It’s a bit of a tweak to our game plan but I’ve got no doubt we got the best available player.
On the spin front, we’ve signed a young wrist-spinner called Liam O’Connor. He’ll be a bit of an unknown quantity around the league; he’s a 23-year-old from Perth who’s impressed us with his variations. Who knows how much he’ll play but we’re delighted to welcome him into the fold.
We’ve got a couple of other new faces this summer in Jake Weatherald and Alex Carey, who are both exciting young South Australians. Carey is a wicketkeeper-batsman who’s been performing really well for the Redbacks in the Sheffield Shield and Weatherald, an aggressive left-handed opener, has surprised a few people around the traps with how well he’s done at the top of the order for SA this season.
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While he’s not a new face – he played for us in BBL|04 and BBL|02– Kieron Pollard is back in blue after missing last summer though injury. The West Indian allrounder is fit and firing, and we can’t wait to see what he can do for us. He’s been in great form for the Cape Cobras in South Africa’s domestic T20 competition. He’s a bit of a crowd favourite here and I know the Adelaide Strikers crowd is pumped to have him back out in the middle.
Big Queenslander Billy Stanlake also returns to Adelaide for BBL|06 and what a prospect this young guys is. The reality is he won’t play every game – he’s come back from some time out with injury and we’ll look after him the best we can. He’s not in our squad for our first match but expect him to feature at some stage. There’s so much to like about him. He’s 6 foot 9, bowls close to 150 kph and swings the ball; it’s a pretty good package! He’s also a great kid, willing to learn and loves being part of the Strikers squad.
Looking to our first opponents, the Brisbane Heat, we’re expecting a really tough contest. Their new skipper Brendon McCullum is a big inclusion for them but he’s just one of a number of danger-men at their disposal. They play a really aggressive style of cricket we’re looking forward to that challenge, but we’ll back ourselves to get the job done.
After he left us over the off-season, I’m expecting Alex Ross to line up for the Heat. He’s a fine young man and an excellent batsmen who’s been afforded an opportunity at another team. We’re all grown-up and are well-aware of the nature of the sport we’re in. The BBL provides an open market so you can’t hold it against players for maximising their opportunities by moving clubs. So I don’t begrudge him for that at all. We wish him well and hope he does well – just not against us! The one advantage for our lads for our game on Wednesday is we know how he plays and how he goes about things, so the bowlers will be very clear on how they’ll bowl to him.
Travis Head will be a real key for us early in our BBL campaign, before he most likely re-joins Australia’s one-day international squad later on. Trav has definitely been copping a bit more stick from the boys than usual – anyone who goes to the national set-up and then comes back to their domestic side always gets a bit of good-natured ribbing from the boys! That’s par for the course.
In all seriousness, having seen him grow through my involvement at the Strkers, and also when he played as Yorkshire’s overseas player briefly earlier this year, you can tell he’s benefited from his time with the national side. He had a good time at Yorkshire and did really well in the Big Bash last year – who could forget that New Year’s Eve century! He’s growing as player, learning more and more about his game and he’ll want to continue to improve.