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BBL 2020 Team Preview: Perth wants bumper harvest after two scorched seasons

The most successful team in the history of Big Bash League (BBL) is all set to make a dash for the title in the upcoming season. Perth Scorchers have taken the BBL trophy home three times and have finished runners-up twice. What is even more impressive is the fact that their success has come largely on the back of home-grown talents. 

However, the last two seasons have seen a decline in the team's performance. The Scorchers earned the wooden spoon in the 2018-19 season, followed by a sixth-place finish in the last edition. Much of the same squad from the 2019-20 season will again be representing them this time also. Hopefully, from the Scorchers' fans' point of view, they will be more efficient. 

What does work in favour of the Western Australia-based side is the unique nature of the pitch at their home stadium. Known worldwide as home of the fastest track in the world, Perth presents a distinct challenge than any other venue in Australia, perhaps the world. Even though cricket matches are not taking place at the fabled WACA stadium, the pitch at the new Optus arena has also shown the same characteristics as the one at the former venue. 

Mitchell Marsh would be leading the team this year as well. Marsh is an underrated player in limited-overs cricket. He has proven to be a very useful bowler with the white ball, able to get some swing at his medium pace, and also is a solid batsman. Being a Western Australia player, his familiarity with the conditions is a big plus. 

Bowling Attack

The bowling attack, especially the pace department, is extremely crucial. Due to the ongoing international season, there aren't any big stars among the seamers. Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, and Andrew Tye are the three most prominent pacers. All three have played for Australia in limited-overs cricket but remain on the fringes of the team. 

None of these pacers have extreme pace like Mitchell Starc. But aided with the extra bounce in home conditions, they can be a handful on their day. It was The backup seamers are relatively unknown. Last year, it was Richardson who usually bore the weight of being his team's leading bowler. Behrendorff and Tye may give him some help this time.

Among the other seamers in the squad, one important name is Matthew Kelly. He often opened the bowling last season for this team. That experience may push him ahead on the pecking order. For a change of angle, left-armer Joel Paris may be the man to go to. 

The Scorchers have two very capable spinners. Fawad Ahmed arrived in Australia as a refugee from religious persecution and was hailed as a great prospect. Despite making his debut in international cricket in 2013, he has failed to live up to the expectation. But he has the skills to succeed. As a leg-spinner, he will benefit from the extra bounce of Perth pitches.

Same can be said about Ashton Agar. He is now an experienced left-arm spinner who is more in the orthodox mould of left-arm spinners. But having played for Scorchers and experienced T20 cricket, he now knows the tricks of the trade in this format also. 

But Agar is likely to miss out on the early part of the season due to an injury he sustained in the ODI series between Australia and India. Not only is he a very useful bowler, his handy batting adds to his value as a team member. As of now, the left-arm spinner is aiming to return by the end of the month. 

To cover his absence, the Scorchers have taken on board an exciting young talent from Western Australia. Corey Rocchiccioli couldn't take part in the Sheffield Shield matches earlier in the season due to an injury of his own. But his talent led to him being included in the travelling party of the Australian team this year. 

Lastly, the Perth team have chosen Liam Guthrie as a cover for Cameron Green. Guthrie has played 10 Sheffield Shield matches with very modest return. He would be an x-factor in the line-up. 

Batting Talent

Scorchers have two overseas openers in their squad. Both are known for explosive batting. However, Jason Roy of England has shown the ability to bat for long periods as well. Colin Munro, on the other hand, will go hammer and tongs right from the beginning. Not only is the Kiwi batter ranked fifth in T20I rankings for batsmen, he also enjoyed great success in the Caribbean Premier League earlier this year.

These two are capable of providing a blistering start to the innings. But if this is the opening pair, the one that opened the innings in the last season, Liam Livingstone and Josh Inglis, and did so with modest success, would have to be adjusted elsewhere. 

However, Roy and Livingstone, being English players, would not be available for the early part of the season. To cover for Roy, another Englishman, Joe Clarke has been picked up by the team. Clarke benefitted from a successful time in the English counterpart to BBL - the T20 Blast - where he was the fifth-highest run-getter. 

On the other hand, Inglis is a key player whose place in the team is certain. Last year, in an otherwise disappointing season for his team, he racked up 405 runs. It is possible that he would retain his place at the top of the order. 

So, when Livingstone and Roy join the squad, there will be four potential openers in the squad. Which one of them remains in the team will depend on the first three matches where Inglis and Munro are certain to open.

"Colin’s naturally aggressive instinct with the bat and ability to take the game away from the opposition quickly will make him an extremely important impact player for us this summer. We look forward to welcoming Colin to the Scorchers," coach Voges said when the news of the New Zealander's joining the team came out. 

Voges also expressed confidence that the absence of the two English batsmen won't cause too much damage. 

"It’s unfortunate we won’t have our English players Liam and Jason for the early part of the campaign, but we have been planning around that since the tour was earmarked and are very excited to welcome Joe to the side," he stated. 

Cameron Bancroft has been a Test opener and is best known for his role in the sandpaper gate saga. But he has decent numbers in T20s as well. Last season, he occupied the pivotal no. 3 position with some success. But if Livingstone and Inglis are removed from the opening spot, then Bancroft may have to shift downwards in the order. 

Skipper Mitchell Marsh is not just a big lad but also has runs at the Test level in the past. This means he has the technique to go along with power. Ashton Turner showed his big-hitting ability last year when he played a blinder to win a match for Australia against India. Marsh and Turner would provide the strength to the middle order. 

Cameron Green would be a valuable member of the team in the lower order but he would miss the initial matches of the season. A hundred that he scored against the Indian team in a practice match recently showed his batting abilities. 

Finishing Touches

Last year's BBL saw Scorchers going in with a similar squad to the one this year. However, a great start to the season ended up being overshadowed by a poor finish which led to the team missing the play-offs. 

This time, having experienced the mistakes of last season, one expects the Perth-based team to be better off. Since they don't have any superstars of T20 cricket like Rashid Khan or Chris Gayle in their ranks, they would have to hope that home-grown players come good. This may or may not work in their favour. 

The first match of the season for Scorchers would take place on December 12 against Melbourne Renegades. 

Perth Scorchers Squad

Mitch Marsh (C), Ashton Agar, Fawad Ahmad, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Joe Clarke (cover for Jason Roy), Cameron Gannon, Cameron Green, Liam Guthrie (cover for Cameron Green), Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis, Matt Kelly, Liam Livingstone, Colin Munro, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Jhye Richardson, Corey Rocchiccioli (cover for Ashton Agar), Jason Roy, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Sam Whiteman

Overseas Players: Jason Roy, Liam Livingston, Colin Munro, Joe Clarke

Coach: Adam Voges

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