Sixers target new overseas stars in recruitment revamp
Sixers coach Ben Sawyer outlines his recruitment wish list, as the club parts ways with two long-term South Africa superstars
17 June 2021, 03:12 PM AEST
Sydney Sixers coach Ben Sawyer has revealed the thinking behind the club's surprise decision to part ways with two South African superstars, as the club revamps its approach after missing the finals for a second consecutive season.
Sawyer confirmed the club would not re-sign out of contract pair Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk for WBBL|07, but hastened to add it was not due to performances of either South African, rather the outcome of post-season soul-searching that highlighted the need to address certain weaknesses in the contract list.
The Sixers have been linked to Indians Shafali Verma, the hard-hitting teenage opening bat who lit up last year's T20 World Cup, and left-arm spinner Radha Yadav, with ESPN last month reporting the pair are set to appear in the Big Bash for the first time this summer.
Neither have put pen to paper yet, however Sawyer confirmed the club's interest in the pair, who will be in Australia with the India squad for the multi-format international series scheduled to be played immediately prior to the WBBL.
"Dane and Kappie were wonderful players for us and were a big part of two championships," Sawyer told cricket.com.au.
"However, after not making the semi-finals for the past two seasons, we feel we needed a change and both these players were off contract at the time.
"We feel that adding to an already extremely strong top order would strengthen our chances even more and an international spinner, preferably a left-arm orthodox spinner, would also make us extremely strong, as this type of bowler always proves effective in the WBBL."
The Sixers played in each of the first four WBBL finals, winning two, but finished fifth for a second consecutive season in WBBL|06.
With plenty of local pace talent in their ranks, including superstar allrounder Ellyse Perry, up-and-coming speedster Stella Campbell, left-armer Lauren Cheatle and 17-year-old Hayley Silver-Holmes, Sawyer said the club was eager to address a weak spot in their bowling attack: the lack of a left-arm spinner.
Meanwhile Sawyer said the addition of a player like Shafali, who opens the batting for India in T20Is, would not necessarily mean an end to the six-year opening partnership between Alyssa Healy and Perry, but would add extra firepower to a top four that also includes Australia allrounder Ashleigh Gardner.
"We have so many middle-order (batters) and allrounders at the Sixers … and we feel we're strong in the bowling department, so it's not necessarily that (we're adding) an opener, but an out-and-out batter for the top order," he said.
It means the prized signature of Kapp, the fiery pace bowler who spent six seasons as a Sixer, is up for grabs, as is that of leg-spinning allrounder van Niekerk, who joined the club in WBBL|02 after a year as a Renegade.
Both players are likely to attract plenty of interest, given South Africa currently have no international engagements in October or November.
England players are unlikely to be available for WBBL|07 due to a clash with their away tour of Pakistan throughout October.
Sawyer is currently in the thick of preseason training with the NSW Breakers, where he is an assistant coach.
The Breakers head coach role is currently up for grabs following Dominic Thornely's departure from the job in April, but Sawyer told cricket.com.au he did not intend to apply to be the state's full-time replacement, given his upcoming commitments with Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred.
He did, however, confirm his interest in the new Australian Women's team bowling coach role advertised earlier this month, a job he has previously held in a short-term capacity on tours including the 2018 and 2020 T20 World Cups, and the 2019 Ashes tour of England.
Meanwhile, reigning champions Sydney Thunder have locked in talented young wicketkeeper-batter Tahlia Wilson for another two seasons.
Wilson, 21, is among several players who were part of the title-winning run who have already committed to the Thunder for WBBL|07, including Phoebe Litchfield and Hannah Darlington.
"I’m really looking forward to being onboard again for the next two seasons," Wilson, who took the gloves full-time last season, said.
"Especially with all the young talent coming through and a few experienced heads in there as well.
"(Last season) for me was where I took some leaps and bounds. I think that really took my keeping to another level.
"(Captain) Rachael Haynes gave me some more responsibility (in terms of helping with field placements) and that really helped me develop my cricket knowledge behind the stumps."
Sydney Sixers WBBL|07 squad so far: Ellyse Perry, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Lauren Cheatle, Emma Hughes, Hayley Silver-Holmes
Sydney Thunder WBBL|07 squad so far: Samantha Bates, Hannah Darlington, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Anika Learoyd, Phoebe Litchfield, Kate Peterson, Lauren Smith, Tahlia Wilson.