Mayank Kumar ∙ Dec 4 2020, 2:24 PM | 5 Min Read

BBL 2020 Team Preview: Can in-form Maxwell, Stoinis help Melbourne Stars shine to maiden title?

The Melbourne Stars have looked like a side capable of lifting the trophy in the last two seasons of the league, but their game unravelled on the big nights when they had to put their best performance one last time to lift the cup. They had a similar story last season, following a defeat in Big Bash League (BBL) 2018 also. This time, the team has geared up to fill the vacant slot for their maiden BBL title.

The fortune of the team lies heavily on the Australian international superstars such as Glenn Maxwell, who will again don the skipper’s hat after a fairly unsuccessful run in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as the captain of Kings XI Punjab, along with all-rounder Marcus Stoijis and leg spinner Adam Zampa. The trio will bring their international experience into the BBL for the Stars. Captain Maxwell would love to silence his critics with the bat in this tournament after another dismal outing in the IPL 2020.

As far as the batting department is concerned, the team is richly endowed with talent and experience as the pair of Maxwell and Stoinis, along with overseas recruits in Nicholas Pooran, will form the core of the batting, to be supported by an ever-so-impressive Ben Dunk and Nic Maddinson, along with wicketkeeper-batsman Seb Gotch. The team also has the new sensation in Australian cricket, Will Pucovski, to bolster the squad. In general, all batsmen who are likely to be featured in the first preferred XI during the 10th edition of BBL are in a rich vein of form and it augurs well for the Stars in the hot pursuit of an elusive title.

The team has been jolted by few developments just before the start of the tournament. England wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow, who has been the go-to man for Eoin Morgan’s side at the top of the order in white-ball formats, has made himself unavailable for the tournament. He was a tactical buy for the Stars who were looking at him for the role of an opener, to partner with Stoinis. They expected him to help create a dominating top order that would have sent warning signs to the opposition camps even before the start of games.

Stars' head coach David Hussey expressed disappointment over Bairstow's absence from the tournament. "We're naturally disappointed Jonny won't be able to link up with us this season but we wish him well on his recall and England's winter tours," Hussey said in a statement.

Bairstow was replaced by West Indies wicketkeeper-batsman Andre Fletcher as a like-for-like replacement. Fletcher has been a regular fixture in T20 cricket across the world and has played more than 200 T20 games, and he is likely to be available for the full-length of the tournament.

"I'm really looking forward to coming over to the Melbourne Stars and being part of what should be an exciting season ahead. Hopefully, I can bring my brand of batting and recent form to the Stars during the BBL," Fletcher stated on the prospect of joining the Stars for BBL 10.

Hussey is looking forward to having Fletcher and is expecting the West Indies player to bring power and entertainment to the Stars’ top order. Hussey also wants to make good use of Fletcher’s experience of being in a team that knows how to win major tournaments.

"We're glad Andre was in a position to join us and he'll bring plenty of power and entertainment at the top of the batting order. Andre is a former T20 World Cup winner with the West Indies so he knows what it takes to succeed in major tournaments and I'm confident he'll be a great asset around our group," Hussey commented on Fletcher joining the Stars camp.

In the bowling department too, the Stars are blessed with impressive international recruits from Australian teams, along with impressive emerging talents of the world. While the duo of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Billy Stanlake, who are rich in international experience, will have the task of providing breakthroughs with the new ball and check the opposition batsmen from running away with the game in the last overs, wrist spinner Adam Zampa and a 20-year-old spinner from Afghanistan, Zahir Khan will have their tasks cut out in the middle overs to check the momentum of opposition's innings.

Zahir showed his class and variations in the Caribbean Premier League earlier this year and he would love the prospect of bowling at the MCG with big boundaries to support his flighted deliveries. Presence of Zampa who has developed into a world-class spinner in white-ball formats will also prove helpful for the team. Stars would be looking forward to getting the best out of the wrist spinners in the middle overs.

Absence of Harris Rauf would have hurt the Stars but they were quick to call up Dilbar Hussain again this season as his replacement after his debut in the last edition of the league. Hussain was handed out a debut last season against Brisbane Heat and he had a forgettable night when AB de Villiers took a liking to him and the Pakistan pacer ended up conceding 56 from his four overs. However, his stellar returns in the finals of Pakistan Super League last month may well have convinced the Stars in bringing him back.

Hussey welcomed the prospect of Hussain’s development after a ‘whirlwind debut’ against de Villiers last year. "I'm looking forward to working with Dilbar again this season and supporting his development together with our wider bowling group. His Stars debut was a whirlwind last year - it was his first senior T20 match and he effectively came down to Melbourne at very short notice and ended up bowling to AB de Villiers at the MCG,” Hussey said of Hussain.

He has included many new tricks in his repertoire and the experience of a PSL season would help him perform better this season, according to Hussey. "He's a genuine 140km/hr bowler with a good yorker and an incredible slower ball. With another year of experience and his time in the PSL, we're keen to see what Dilbar brings to the table for us this year. The fact that not many players have faced him before can be a real advantage for us." 

The Stars have been a prolific team in the last two seasons and this time around, nothing less than the trophy would make them happy about their games as they seem to have all their bases covered.

Strongest XI

Marcus Stoinis, Jonny Bairstow (OS), Nic Maddinson, Nicholas Pooran (OS), Glenn Maxwell, Hilton Cartwright, Seb Gotch (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Zahir Khan (OS), Billy Stanlake

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