International Cricket

BBL 2023-24 preview, squads, players to watch: Brisbane Heat, Adelaide Strikers, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Renegades

A new-look BBL will begin on Thursday with a reduced 40-game regular season although the squeeze on marquee talent continues to be a challenge. We run the rule over how each side could go. Part two will be published on Wednesday.

Brisbane Heat

Squad Usman Khawaja, Xavier Bartlett, Sam Billings, Josh Brown, Max Bryant, Spencer Johnson, Matthew Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan McSweeney, Colin Munro, Michael Neser, Jimmy Peirson, Will Prestwidge, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Paul Walter, Jack Wildermuth

How the draft went

There had been pre-draft talk of Heat having to choose between batters Colin Munro and Sam Billings. But Heat didn’t have to use their retention pick on either. They took Munro with their platinum pick at seven and Billings with pick 15. Hurricanes could have taken Billings at pick 11 but went for batter Sam Hain, who Heat let go. Tall bowling allrounder Paul Walter, a reliable performer for Essex who has yet to crack international cricket, was a surprise pick with their third selection.

How they stack up

If not for incredible late hitting from Nick Hobson and Cooper Connolly, Heat would have been entering the season as the title holders. Instead they’ll be driven by that painful defeat at Optus Stadium with last season’s nucleus remaining intact. Heat were long known as a mercurial team, but found consistency late last season when they stormed into the decider despite a grueling finals run.

They’ll hope to take the momentum into this season and Heat boast a strong attack that should be available for most of the season. Left-arm quick Spencer Johnson was a revelation last season and has tasted international cricket in recent months. He’ll work alongside veteran Michael Neser, who remains on the fringes of Test cricket. Spinners Matthew Kuhnemann and Mitchell Swepson have both played Test cricket in recent years, but will be competing against each other when Heat opt for just one specialist spinner.

Heat’s batting has plenty of firepower, but availability could be an issue for several of their batters.

Player to watch

Nathan McSweeney, 24, has had a strong season so far in the Sheffield Shield and Marsh Cup for South Australia. He has yet to play international cricket, but his rising standing among Australia’s hierarchy is underlined by McSweeney captaining the Prime Minister’s XI team against Pakistan.

He had limited opportunities in the BBL until last season when McSweeney grabbed a hold of No. 3 and smashed 84 off 51 balls against Sydney Sixers at the Gabba. He was classy in the final against Scorchers with a top score of 41 from 37 balls with the promise of more to come this season. McSweeney is also a useful offspinner and capable of chipping in with handy overs if Heat elect to play only one of Kuhnemann or Swepson.

Availability issues

Heat’s push for a strong start to the season will be challenging without Prime Minister’s XI players Neser, McSweeney, Matthew Renshaw and Jimmy Peirson for their first two matches against Melbourne Stars and Adelaide Strikers.

Those absences have been somewhat offset by the availability of captain Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne, who are then likely to miss much of the season due to Test commitments. Neser and Renshaw could also figure in Test calculations during the summer. Munro and Billings will play in nine regular season games before flying off to the UAE’s ILT20 competition, but Walter will be available throughout.

Adelaide Strikers

Captain TBC
Coach Jason Gillespie
Fixtures Click here

Squad Wes Agar, James Bazley, Cameron Boyce, Alex Carey, Brendan Doggett, Travis Head, Adam Hose, Henry Hunt, Thomas Kelly, Chris Lynn, Ben Manenti, Harry Nielsen, Jamie Overton, David Payne, D’Arcy Short, Matt Short, Henry Thornton, Jake Weatherald

How the draft went

Strikers as expected used the No. 1 pick to retain talisman Rashid Khan, who has subsequently pulled out of the BBL due to a back injury. Rashid was only going to be available until January 5 and has been replaced by English left-arm quick David Payne, who was part of Scorchers’ triumph last season and will be available for Strikers’ entire campaign.

With their second pick Strikers selected one-Test England player Jamie Overton on the back of his explosive batting in the middle-order for Manchester Originals in the Hundred. Adam Hose returns after being selected at pick 26 and will provide a solid option in the middle-order.

How they stack up

Having almost made the final of BBL 11, it was then a step back for Strikers after a late season spiral saw them lose their last five games. Unsurprisingly they’ve made some changes although the biggest was forced due to Rashid’s injury and Strikers will look notably different without him.

The pressure will be on spinners Ben Manenti and Cameron Boyce, but Strikers are well stocked with pacemen after the additions of James Bazley and Brendan Doggett, who has bowled with fire for South Australia in the Shield. Strikers over the years have at times felt like they’ve lacked firepower with the bat, but Matthew Short and Chris Lynn were devastating in combination at times last season. Overton will add big-hitting ability in the middle-order, while D’Arcy Short is hoping to recapture the form that once made him one of the BBL’s most explosive players after shifting from Hobart Hurricanes.

Player to watch

Matt Short was the shining light amid a disappointing Strikers season and finished as the player of the tournament after continual blistering batting during the powerplay. Short, 28, has started the Australian domestic season brilliantly and made his international T20I and ODI debuts recently. Had Travis Head not been available for the World Cup, Short would likely have been drafted into Australia’s squad. Short is very much a modern cricketer who can do a little bit of everything. He’s a superb catcher and a skilful offspin bowler, who has often opened the bowling for Strikers.

Availability issues

Head and wicketkeeper Alex Carey are set to be mostly unavailable due to Test duties. Overton, Hose and Payne will be available for the whole season.

Hobart Hurricanes

Squad Corey Anderson, Iain Carlisle, Nikhil Chaudhary, Tim David, Paddy Dooley, Nathan Ellis, Liam Guthrie, Sam Hain, Peter Hatzoglou, Sam Heazlett, Caleb Jewell, Chris Jordan, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Mitch Owen, Billy Stanlake, Matthew Wade, Mac Wright

How the draft went

Hurricanes were very strategic with their picks to fill the holes in their line-up. They also avoided some of the availability problems that other clubs gambled on. Hurricanes had pick 3 in the draft and took the opportunity to force Sydney Sixers into using a retention pick on Tom Curran. Sixers did retain Curran and that left Chris Jordan, another Sixers retention pick, available and Hurricanes were very happy to get him. Jordan was also left out of England’s white-ball tour of the Caribbean which delighted Hurricanes further.

They then went after Sam Hain, who was a retention pick for Brisbane Heat, and were able to get Hain as Heat opted not to take him as they chose to retain Sam Billings, who was still available in the draft. Hain adds some middle-order depth given they have a lot of local top-order talent. Hurricanes pulled a surprise with their final pick taking former New Zealand allrounder Corey Anderson following his impressive showing in the inaugural MLC this year. It gives Hurricanes another powerful left-handed finisher to team up with Tim David and a left-arm seam option.

How they stack up

Hurricanes squad shapes up very well. They have a lot of batting depth with David, Ben McDermott, Caleb Jewell and Matthew Wade forming the backbone of the top six but the addition of Sam Heazlett, as well as the overseas duo of Hain and Anderson, means they have a pretty powerful and versatile group of batters to choose from.

The attack is nicely balanced, led by new captain Nathan Ellis. He has the veteran Englishman Jordan to bank on to bowl the tough overs as well as the out-and-out pace of Riley Meredith and Billy Stanlake. Hurricanes can also play two local spinners having added Peter Hatzoglou alongside Paddy Dooley. Ellis has a lot of experience around him but it will still be a big challenge for him as a full-time bowling captain. Although the blueprint has been set by Australia ODI captain Pat Cummins. Hurricanes made the captaincy change after a disappointing season last year where they missed the finals on net run-rate.

Player to watch

When Hurricanes head of strategy Ricky Ponting read out Corey Anderson‘s name at the BBL draft there were a lot of raised eyebrows in the room. Anderson, 32, had virtually disappeared from top-level cricket since last playing for New Zealand in 2018 and had not played a top-level T20 tournament since the 2020 CPL. But he reemerged at the MLC this year playing for the San Francisco Unicorns, a team with a heavy connection to Australia as it was run by Cricket Victoria’s administration and coached by former Australia allrounder Shane Watson. Aaron Finch, Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis also played in the team.

Anderson’s performances were eye-catching, including 91 not out off 52 balls against an MI New York attack featuring Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada. Wade clearly liked what he saw and passed on the information to Ponting and the Hurricanes management and Anderson is now a Hurricane and set to form a formidable finishing combination alongside Wade and David should Hurricanes choose to use them in those roles. He will also provide a handy bowling option. He could be an amazing find for the Hurricanes if he continues the form he showed at the MLC.

Availability issues

Hurricanes are likely to have a very settled squad. They have no Australian Test players in their squad and their three overseas are set to be available for the entire home and away portion but the only downside will be that none are available for finals if Hurricanes get there.

Melbourne Renegades

Captain Nic Maddinson
Coach David Saker
Fixtures Click here

Squad Nic Maddinson, Joe Clarke, Quinton de Kock, Harry Dixon, Aaron Finch, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Mackenzie Harvey, Ruwantha Kellapotha, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Fergus O’Neill, Kane Richardson, Tom Rogers, Peter Siddle, Will Sutherland, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Jon Wells, Adam Zampa

How the draft went

Renegades had an excellent draft adding two world-class players with their first two picks although their availability will be limited. They were able to snare Quinton de Kock at pick No. 4. That raised a few eyebrows given the South African looked look he would have very limited availability, but Renegades had done their homework and were aware he was set to retire from ODI cricket after the World Cup, meaning he is likely to be available for six games prior to the SA20.

Renegades then retained Mujeeb Ur Rahman without needing to use the retention pick, and he is set to form a formidable spin partnership with new recruit Adam Zampa. They opted not to take a third overseas on draft night, and later added Englishman Joe Clarke as a top order bat who can keep when de Kock is absent.

How they stack up

Former Renegades BBL title winner Dan Christian famously quipped, “Old blokes win stuff”, and the Renegades will be hoping that dictum rings true again for a club that has only won one title in BBL history. They have doubled down on the veteran squad that made the Knockout last year adding Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon to a list that already features three over 35s in Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and Jon Wells. Zampa’s inclusion is a masterstroke, as he and Mujeeb will be a formidable pairing and they will give Renegades a lot of flexibility with their attack.

The batting has a lot of talent on paper but how they will gel will be a big question mark. Jake Fraser-McGurk has made an electric start to the Australian domestic season and looms as a key man given Finch, Marsh and Wells are no longer 12-month a year professionals. Maddinson is still recovering from his ACL injury but is fit to play after making a return in club cricket. There will be a heavy reliance on de Kock and Clarke to provide consistent output while Will Sutherland should get the chance show his ever-improving finishing ability.

Player to watch

Jake Fraser-McGurk broke AB de Villiers’ record for the fastest List A century earlier this summer thrashing a 29-ball hundred for his new state team South Australia. He followed that up with a maiden first-class century in the Sheffield Shield. He is still a long way from the finished product, but he is starting to deliver on the promise he has shown for many years. The BBL looms as a chance to make his name as one of the most dynamic young batters in Australia. He should be given a licence in the top three given the experience around him.

Availability issues

De Kock is currently at the Abu Dhabi T10 and could miss the opening two games on December 8 and 10 but is expected to be available for Renegades’ next six games before he departs for the SA20. Mujeeb looks set to play in the Renegades’ first seven matches but Afghanistan have a three-match T20I series in India starting on January 11 that will likely rule him out of the last three. Clarke is set to be available for the whole tournament. Lyon is available and keen to play in the season opener but will be unlikely for the remainder of the tournament due to Test duty.

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