Bashed up: Another season of doom and gloom for the Stars?
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They were once considered the glamour Big Bash League franchise, boasting such names as Shane Warne, Kevin Pietersen and Eddie McGuire among their on- and off-field ranks, complete with the home-ground advantages of playing at the MCG.
Yet for all this, the Stars, often boasting arguably the competition’s deepest roster, have yet to deliver a title in a tournament now in its 13th season.
Glenn Maxwell after being dismissed during the Stars’ season-opening BBL loss to the Heat.Credit: Getty Images
Once again, the Stars still have elite talent – it doesn’t get much better than the dashing World Cup hero Glenn Maxwell and robust Marcus Stoinis – while former England coach Peter Moores is in the top role, yet the manner in which they were thumped by 103 runs by the Brisbane Heat in the tournament opener at the Gabba on Thursday night suggests this could be another barren campaign.
Host free-to-air broadcaster Seven reported bumper ratings, with 1.9 million people tuning in nationwide, no doubt many hoping Maxwell would again put on a show.
But since losing the 2019-20 final, the third time they were beaten in a final, the Stars have underperformed, finishing seventh, sixth and eighth.
“When you look back at those back-to-back finals a couple of years ago, we’ve certainly had our opportunities. It felt like we had all bases covered. We had overseas players who were consistently performing for us,” skipper Maxwell recalled this week.
On Thursday night, Maxwell threatened, crunching three boundaries and a six in his 23 runs off 14 balls, but he wasn’t able to conjure another magic act. That he was in discomfort at the crease and finished the night injured, icing a sore forearm, was a major worry – not only for the Stars but for broadcasters Seven and Fox Sports.
He and fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile (calf), the latter with a history of soft-tissue injuries, were sent for scans on Friday, as the Stars turned their attention towards hosting the powerhouse Perth Scorchers on Wednesday.
“First ball he squirted one out [to square leg] and he felt something. Hopefully, it’s nothing major, but we won’t know until it settles down. We’ve got quite a slow intro to the tournament – we don’t play until December 13 and 23, so we have got some time on our hands,” Moores said.
The Stars were woeful with the ball, Maxwell, having opted to bowl first, conceding 44 off his three overs, allowing the Heat, on the back of an unbeaten 99 from South African-born New Zealander Colin Munro, to surge to 3-214.
Back in the day: Even batting bruiser Kevin Pietersen could not drag the Stars to a BBL title.Credit: Julian Smith
Moores said the standard of fielding also needed to lift. Their batting was also poor, bowled out for 111 in only 15.1 overs on what batsman Hilton Cartwright said was a “nice wicket”.
Sam Harper – the pugnacious wicketkeeper was an off-season trade from the Renegades in exchange for Adam Zampa – failed with the bat (four off two) at the top of the order. Fellow former Renegade Tom Rogers (one off two) would also want his time again.
Stoinis (two off three), rested from bowling, was used at No.5, when his best work with the Stars has been at the top of the order, when an innings can be built around him. That Cartwright (33 off 16), a former opener, was used at No.6 was also questioned.
“I reckon he [Cartwright] has been underused a bit the last couple of years for the Melbourne Stars. Sitting right down in that six, seven sort of slot, doesn’t generally get a lot of balls to face. I think he is a bit better than that,” former Australian captain Ricky Ponting said on Seven’s commentary.
Former Australian and Stars batsman Brad Hodge backed Ponting’s call.
“In fact, he opened the batting for a season up there with [Stoinis] and did an exceptional job, then sort of found himself back in the middle-order role. But No.6, if you look back at the history of the Melbourne Stars, most of the time when you walk in at No.6, they’re done and dusted. So, it’s a pointless activity. You need to get your better players into the game ASAP,” Hodge said.
The late decision by England blaster Harry Brook to pull out of the tournament because of workload issues has hurt the Stars.
Maxwell said the decision to trade the leg-spinning Zampa, one of Australia’s guns in the World Cup win over India, was so the Stars could have an Australian wicketkeeper, while also opening up an overseas slot. But Zampa is capable of being a match winner, and may have stymied the Heat.
Talismanic Pakistan quick Haris Rauf, finally given clearance to travel to Australia by the Pakistan Cricket Board, will boost the Stars, and is likely to line up on Wednesday.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Stars – just yet. Cartwright attempted to put things into perspective when he said: “On a night like tonight, you’ve got to keep reminding yourself you’re not a bad team.”
But if recent seasons are any guide, the Stars have much work to do before they can prove they are a good team.
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