Star power won't be diminished in elusive title tilt
With a host of key players to remain with the Stars throughout BBL|09, the club is well-poised to claim a maiden title
Louis Cameron at the MCG
5 January 2020, 08:57 AM AEST
The chips are falling the Melbourne Stars' way in their bid to snag an elusive KFC BBL crown, with last season's runners-up to dodge their annual mid-season depletion due to national limited-overs duties.
Adam Zampa declared the Stars are in a better position than last summer to break their title drought after avenging for their defeat in last February's final by thumping the Melbourne Renegades in Saturday's night's derby.
The eight-wicket win over their winless foes who beat them in last season's decider leaves the Stars atop the BBL|09 standings with only one loss from six games and a sky-high net run rate.
Since the BBL's inception in 2011, the Stars have their roster stuffed with players regularly picked for Australian limited-overs sides.
It has meant they have often lost a significant chunk of key players midway through the BBL season in January and sometimes for the finals, of which they have only missed one in eight completed tournaments.
But Zampa and Peter Handscomb are the only two Stars players who will travel with Australia's ODI squad heading to India next week, with captain Glenn Maxwell, current BKT Golden Cap holder Marcus Stoinis and new recruit Nathan Coulter-Nile all likely to be available for the whole summer.
"Usually with the ODI series in Australia we lose quite a few (players), but with 'Stoin' still available and 'Coults' and 'Maxi' (staying in the BBL) we feel like we're in a really good position," said Zampa.
"We're going to be in a really strong position going into the finals."
Zampa admitted the Stars' surge to the brink of a title last season may have come too early.
"At the start of last season, we really didn't feel like it was going to be the one we were going to win," said Zampa. "We had some new faces and a new captain, but (the final was) one we should have gotten over the line in.
"But this year was probably the one (the Stars thought they could win), particularly with the signing of 'Coults', Larko (Nick Larkin) is getting more games under his belt, 'Stoin' is in the form of his career.
"So I'm not surprised by the start, I think we've got a really good team … we've done really well selection-wise."
Marquee signing Dale Steyn heads back to South Africa after turning in arguably his best performance for the club in taking 2-16 from his four overs in front of 54,478 fans, the biggest crowd of BBL|09 to date.
But the Stars appear well-placed to cover for him with highly-rated young quick Pat Brown on hand until he departs later this month for England’s limited-overs series against South Africa, while breakout performer Haris Rauf remains in the squad.
Sandeep Lamichhane will take up the mantle as the side's main spinner after Zampa departs following their clash with the Sydney Thunder at the MCG on Tuesday.
The wrist-spinning pair removed five of the Renegades' top six and strangled the middle order by conceding just 45 from their combined eight overs.
Lamichhane has formed a strong bond with Zampa, who has been mentoring the Nepalese teenager on the art of bowling defensively in T20 cricket.
"We get along really well, Sandeep and I," said Zampa, who has been invited to go to Nepal by Lamichhane.
"We have a lot of conversations. He's obviously quite young and raw, and he loves getting wickets and he's really good at that.
"But sometimes the conversation is about being a little bit more defensive, and he's trying to learn how to bowl a little more defensive.
"He's a really good kid and a really good listener."