BBL|09 season preview: Sydney Sixers
Coach Greg Shipperd gives the inside word as last summer’s semi-finalists look to have star Australia trio available for back end of the tournament
10 December 2019, 05:01 PM AEST
After a heartbreaking semi-final defeat last season, the Sydney Sixers will be looking to go at least one better this summer as they chase their first men's KFC Big Bash League title since the inaugural tournament eight years ago.
And there's a vintage feel to the Sixers this season with the additions of Steve Smith and Josh Hazlewood, who were both part of that title-winning squad in 2011-12.
But Australia's Domain Test Series against New Zealand and short ODI tour of India in mid-January means Smith, Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon are unlikely to be available until the final two matches of the regular season, meaning the Sixers will be desperate for a strong start to the tournament so they are still in finals contention when their big names become available.
It also means the likes of Ben Manenti and Henry Thornton, who have played for the Sixers in recent years but are not yet contracted for this season, could come into the squad as replacement players during the tournament.
English pair James Vince and Tom Curran will return after impressing last season and will be available for the bulk of the tournament, although England's scheduled white-ball tour of South Africa in early February means they could be unavailable for the BBL finals, should the Sixers make it. But with Smith and Hazlewood set to come in at that time, the Sixers have two very solid local replacements for their overseas stars.
The Sixers also made a handy off-season signing in the form of fast bowler Jackson Bird, who impressed for the Melbourne Stars last summer.
2018 result: Semi-finals
Squad: Sean Abbott, Justin Avendano, Jackson Bird, Tom Curran (OS), Ben Dwarshuis, Jack Edwards, Micky Edwards, Daniel Fallins, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Steve O'Keefe, Josh Phillippe, Lloyd Pope, Jordan Silk, Steve Smith, James Vince (OS)
(Players can be added during the tournament if squad members are unavailable due to injury or national selection)
Ins: Steve Smith, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird
Outs: Joe Denly, Peter Nevill, Henry Thornton, Greg West, Ben Manenti
Possible Best XI for first game: Daniel Hughes, Josh Phillippe (wk), James Vince, Moises Henriques (c), Jordan Silk, Jack Edwards, Tom Curran, Sean Abbott, Steve O'Keefe, Jackson Bird, Ben Dwarshuis
The inside word with coach Greg Shipperd
We were pleased and disappointed in the same breath with last season. To play the style of cricket we did and get to the semi-finals, which could have gone either way, we were flattened by that result, but we were really bullish about the potential in the group. If we can back that up this year with a couple of crucial back-end signings (Smith and Hazlewood) and play well enough to have them involved around finals time, we think we've got a good shot at it.
Last year, (the short pre-season) was a bigger challenge because we had an eight-player turnaround. But this season, we've only brought Jackson Bird in and he's played with us before. So we'll be quite stable, and everyone understands their roles and positioning in the side already. If we can find some form and keep the right combinations, we're going to be a handful.
After six Shield games, everyone is going to have a level of tiredness and a few little niggles, but there's nothing major which is pleasing. The season's been squashed so there's definitely going to be some challenges given we play and travel and then play and travel again. We need 18 game-ready players, so the depth of the squad is going to be really important for everybody.
It will depend on selection for that one-day tour of India (on January 14-19). We could have none of those three (Steve Smith, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon), or we could have one or two of those available to us. We just have to roll with what those selections hold for us, but we're excited to have their skills and knowledge around the group at some point, hopefully for a run to the finals late in the season.
Quite possibly both of those players (Tom Curran and James Vince) will be in contention for England's short-form cricket over in South Africa (from February 4-16). We lost Tom last year for the semi-finals, but with the cover we've provided with our Australian players, we have some flexibility in our squad should those moments come up. We haven't signed any replacement international players at this stage. We've got those guys (Smith, Hazlewood and Lyon) to play those roles late in the season and if we really think we have a weakness in our group, we can boost that with an international replacement. But we're pretty confident with our domestic players who will be available late in the season.
Tom Curran brings a lot of energy and for such a young player, he brings a lot of cricket knowledge that he shares with us. He speaks very well in team meetings. He's a leader and a very talented batter, bowler and fielder as well so he's a four-in-one player, which is rare. We're really looking forward to him banking another season like he did last year.
James Vince came in as a replacement for Joe Denly last season and did fabulously well at the top of the order and has subsequently played for England. He's captain of his county side Hampshire so he understands the game really well. And he's a beautiful player, very easy on the eye and has shots on both sides of the wicket. He gelled really well with our top -order players last season so we're looking forward to another great season from him.
Young Jack Edwards and Justin Avendano are both terrific young players and given a significant run during the tournament should circumstances arise, they will both be better for their understanding from last season. From a batting perspective, we've got two terrific options there. And from a leg-spinning point of view, young Lloyd Pope and Daniel Fallins both have immense upside as well. And Ben Manenti came in as a replacement for Nathan Lyon last season and was player-of-the-match in his first game. As a right-arm off-spinner coming straight out of club cricket, he did a great job. And our two young quicks, Mickey Edwards and Henry Thornton, provide depth, a bit of the unknown as well as pace and height. We think we've got most bases covered in terms of squad depth.
Player to watch
Josh Philippe is one of these young players who just play with absolutely no fear. He's brave, and he's got the strokes to match on both sides of the wicket. He played fantastically well for us last season at the back-end of an innings when he was in the middle order but went to another level when he opened late in the season. We're hoping he's going to have what it takes to match it under even more scrutiny that he's going to get from opposition teams. He's got a wonderful skillset and mindset for this form of the game.
Your biggest strength
I think we're a fantastic fielding team. Fielding and catching and saving ones are hugely important in this form of the game. With our movements in the field, our arms and our catching skills, I think the whole unit presents as well as anybody, so that's certainly a strength. And we play pretty well through the middle overs as well. Our middle overs with both bat and ball last season were exemplary.
They're all damn good teams. The Heat have got something cooking with Darren Lehmann back in town with their group. They're a stiff challenge on all occasions. But that's not to underestimate any teams because all are capable of being in finals contention.