BBL to World Cup: From Little Things Big Things Grow
Who'd have ever thought that the Indian Premier League would kickstart a T20 revolution around the world? Since 2008, almost every major cricket playing nation has developed its own franchise based T20 league, while there are over fifty T20 teams all over the globe.
These T20 leagues have provided opportunities to hundreds of players to showcase their skills on the biggest level, and in front of capacity crowds. Players who'd previously never dreamed of playing for their countries have had the opportunity to use these T20 competitions as a springboard for success.
The Big Bash League in Australia is one such tournament that's given a number of players a chance to prove themselves while using the competition as a potential stepping stone for international fame and recognition. A few of these players were seen in the recently concluded T20I series against India, which the tourists triumphed 2-1.
With the Big Bash League well underway this season, many eyes are focused on the Australian locals as they attempt to push themselves into the picture and perhaps earn a ticket to India.
From the huge pool of players in the league this year, there are a handful of whom are going to be in the spotlight for the entire season.
D’Arcy Short went professional in 2011 but it wasn’t until the Big Bash League in 2017 that he made headlines following a staggering campaign for the Hobart Hurricanes. His 572 runs at a ridiculous 57.32 average not only propelled the Tasmanians to the BBL Grand Final, but earned the NT-born star Player of the Tournament honours. Since then, Short's gone on to represent Australia at the national level in 23 T20Is. While his international strike-rate of 118.88 hasn't matched his brilliant 135.35 domestic number, he remains a prime example of a player leveraging his BBL form into international opportunities.
Sydney Thunder's Daniel Sams wasn't really on anyone's radar heard of until he made his debut for the Sydney Sixers in 2017, producing a stunning 4/14 against the Thunder which was the best figures for a debutant in the BBL. It wasn't however until last season's cross-town switch where Sams truly exploded, grabbing a competition-high 30 wickets, taking the Thunder to within a game of Grand Final berth while also being crowned Player of the Tournament. While he recently picked up his first two caps for the National team, his hitting prowess might strengthen his World Cup claims, belting 65 against Brisbane in December to go along with the 8 wickets he's already nabbed for the 1-loss contenders. His all-round ability could be a major asset for the Australians at the World Cup.
Unlike Short and Sams, Brisbane's Mitchell Swepson actually made his mark through his performances in first-class cricket and not T20 cricket. However, if his recent short-form performances in both the BBL and against India are anything to go by, Australia may well have found its next spin sensation. He holds the record of the most number of wickets by a spinner for the Brisbane Heat, with 39 scalps to his name. Since Shane Warne, Australia haven’t really harboured a genuinely great leg-spinner. While Adam Zampa has been useful in T20Is, he's also be rather inconsistent, producing a sub-7 economy rate in just 3 of his last 12 international matches. Swepson however could be an answer to their spin woes in the shorter format of the game. Not only is he a proven wicket-taker, but he also possess the ability to completely smother opposition batsmen. In the recently concluded T20I series against India, he picked up 5 wickets in 3 games and went for less than 6 runs per over in 2 of those outings.
23-year-old Josh Phillippe had heads turning with his batting prowess for the all-conquering Sixers in the BBL. Last season, the WA-born youngster notched up 487 runs for the champs, which was the highest-ever single season tally for the franchise. He recently scored his highest T20 score with a brilliant 95-run-knock against the Melbourne Renegades in Hobart just before the New Year. Since moving to the Sixers via the Perth Scorchers in 2018, the wicketkeeper-batsman has scored 791 runs at a strike rate of just under 140. Overall, he's scored 894 runs in 34 matches with 26 sixes to his name. While Australia’s opening slots seem to be locked and loaded with Aaron Finch and David Warner, Phillipe could definitely be in the reckoning either as a back-up opener or even a potential finisher.
The Big Bash League season continues to enthral audiences around the world, with the Australian selectors keeping a keen eye out on a few players. Unlike the IPL in 2020, fans have actually been able to attend matches which has added plenty to the atmosphere.
With less than 12 months to go until the next edition of the World T20, there's still everything to play for. Perhaps some of the aforementioned stars will push their way into into the national squad, while we may well see some new names jump out of the shadows and take their place. What's certain is that this is an incredibly exciting time for T20 cricket in Australia with plenty of action (and storylines) lurking around every corner.
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