Stars young guns tipped to shine after final heartbreak
Annabel Sutherland among the young Melbourne players set to shoulder more responsibility this summer
13 October 2021, 12:46 PM AEST
Elyse Villani is optimistic Melbourne Stars’ young guns can step up this Weber WBBL season, following the loss of three international superstars.
Last season’s runners-up have had one of the tougher off-seasons, with England stars Natalie Sciver and Katherine Brunt unavailable to return this season, while South Africa batter Mignon du Preez defected to Hobart, and local leg-spinner Alana King departed for the Scorchers.
After at least two other planned overseas signings fell through, the Stars managed to secure the English pair of batter Maia Bouchier, who recently made her T20I debut, and left-arm spin bowler Linsey Smith, who joins Melbourne-based Irish pace ace Kim Garth.
But it is the young locals who Villani can see stepping up, with Australia allrounder Annabel Sutherland, young quick Tess Flintoff and ‘keeper-batter Nicole Faltum to shoulder more responsibility this tournament.
"I'm really excited to see what the kids can do," Villani told cricket.com.au.
"Annabel Sutherland, I feel like she's going to get really great opportunity with both the ball and the bat this year.
"The more you do something, the better you get, and she'll get ample opportunity this season, which is really exciting for both her and us as a team.
"Tess Flintoff with the ball, she bowled some really good spells for us last year, and she's going to be critical as a fast-bowling option for us, which is exciting.
"And I have no doubt she and Nic Faltum have come a long way with their batting as well, they'll need to score some runs for us throughout the middle-order.
"Our young kids have been with us for a couple of years now, and now it's their year to really step up and show everyone what they can do."
Villani moved from Victoria to Tasmania this winter but remains contracted to the Stars, where she will reprise her winning opening partnership with Australia skipper Meg Lanning.
She admitted the heartbreak of last year’s loss to Sydney Thunder in the final, which came after the Stars finished on top of the ladder and were heavily favoured to win their first title, was still raw.
But Villani is confident the new-look Stars group can continue to play in the same aggressive manner that became their trademark throughout WBBL|06.
"Any time I see vision of last year’s final, it just makes me go back to a place where it was pretty heartbreaking," she said.
"To be honest, I felt like we were the best team all tournament, we just had a really great squad and we really enjoyed ourselves.
"You just wish you could have that (final) game over again.
"But I think last year we started to really show the style of cricket that we wanted to play as a franchise and I have no doubt that that will continue on throughout this season.
"And even though we've got less experienced players in our squad, I think the style we committed to last year, we can continue that on, and continue that freedom with our young list as well."
Squad: Meg Lanning* (c), Annabel Sutherland*, Maia Bouchier (Eng), Kim Garth (Ire), Linsey Smith (Eng), Lucy Cripps, Maddy Darke, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Georgia Gall, Anna Lanning, Rhys McKenna, Erin Osborne, Elyse Villani
* CA contracted marquee player
In: Kim Garth, Rhys McKenna, Anna Lanning, Maddy Darke (Sixers), Maia Bouchier, Linsey Smith
Out: Alana King (Scorchers), Mignon du Preez (Hurricanes), Holly Ferling (Renegades), Katherine Brunt, Natalie Sciver, Bhavi Devchand
WBBL|06 squad members off-contract: Sophie Day
Possible best XI: Elyse Villani, Meg Lanning (c), Annabel Sutherland, Maia Bouchier, Erin Osborne, Kim Garth, Maddy Darke, Linsey Smith, Tess Flintoff, Nicole Faltum (wk), Sophie Day
Player to watch: Annabel Sutherland
X-factor: Kim Garth
Last year's result: Runners-up
The inside word with Mel Jones: "For me the key player is Annabel Sutherland. She’s got experience now within the Australian set-up, she’s fantastic with bat and ball. If the young bowling unit can step up, it’ll really shift things for the Melbourne Stars."
October 14 v Sixers, Blundstone Arena
October 19 v Hurricanes, Blundstone Arena
October 20 v Sixers, Blundstone Arena
October 23 v Heat, Invermay Park
October 26 v Thunder, UTAS Stadium
October 27 v Hurricanes, UTAS Stadium
October 30 v Thunder, UTAS Stadium
October 31 v Heat, UTAS Stadium
November 6 v Strikers, Karen Rolton Oval
November 7 v Renegades, Adelaide Oval
November 10 v Scorchers, Karen Rolton Oval
November 11 v Renegades, Karen Rolton Oval
November 20 v Scorchers, Adelaide Oval
November 21 v Strikers, Adelaide Oval
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