T20 franchise cricket is very young, with tactics and team building strategy still evolving. Within these leagues, the wide-ranging decisions when it has come to composing squads is one of their most fascinating elements. In the IPL this year the Royal Challengers Bangalore met the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the final. RCB’s way of thinking about T20 was clear throughout the season, batting power was seen as the key to victory. The top three of Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers demonstrates this. The Sunrisers took an alternative approach, Dave Warner was recruited as the star power with the bat but investment in allrounders Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting also proved shrewd, while the biggest success was the Bangladeshi wunderkind Mustafizur Rahman who proved to be the outstanding bowler throughout the whole tournament. The Sunrisers won the final, RCB’s two overseas bowlers, Shane Watson and Chris Jordan, where not massively effective and a score of 208 proved too much to chase despite Gayle and Kohli providing a blistering start.
With this range of tactics and with nobody quite sure what the best route to success is, it is interesting to look at those sides who have under performed to try and work out what went wrong. Those teams who seem to perennially fail also provide the greatest draw to those cricket watchers who are naturally disposed to support for the underdog and have sympathy or take pity in a team’s haplessness. In India the Kings XI Punjab have taken up this role and in Australia it is probably the Brisbane Heat. Both the Heat and the Kings XI have manged to have one outstanding season surrounded by some dismal performances. In 2014, with the IPL being played in the UAE the Kings XI clicked for the only time in their short history. With the batting on David Miller, George Bailey, Virender Sehwag, Wriddhiman Saha and Glenn Maxwell they powered their way into the final. Maxwell was the key, he hit four fifties and finished with 552 runs at strike rate of 187. This year also saw young Indian players impress with the ball for Punjab. Axar Patel, Rishi Dhawan and Sandeep Sharma were all effective, providing excellent foil for the pace of Mitchell Johnson. This formula has never been repeated for Punjab. The local bowlers could not repeat their performances from this season, Mitchell Johnson got older and Maxwell and Miller have never been able to provide consistency.
Brisbane’s one year of success came in 2012/13 when the team managed to win the title after coming 4th in the league stage. That year the Heat’s overseas players were Kemar Roach and Thisara Perera, neither of whom managed to be regular match winners. Luke Pomersbach, Chris Lynn, Joe Burns and Dan Christian providing the runs and James Hopes, Ben Cutting, Alister McDermott and Christian again provided the wickets. Over the following seasons the Heat have had a mixed bag with overseas recruits, mainly veterans like Vettori and Flintoff while the Australian bowlers such as Ben Cutting have not been able to reproduce their 2012/13 form. A similar story to the Kings XI. However, last year Samuel Badree was a definite success and Brisbane will be hoping that he can lead a bowling attack which will have improved off of the experiences of the previous season. Cutting had a positive end to the IPL season with the Sunrisers, Andrew Fekete should be in a better place a year on from his surprise inclusion in an Australia Test squad and young leg spinner Mitchell Swepson has now broken into the Queensland Sheffield Shield side and could be a bit of a wildcard. With the bat the Heat had become completely reliant on the brilliant Chris Lynn. This year though he should have supprt with the experience of Brendon McCullum and youthful talent of Marnus Labuschagne who is having a great season for Queensland, and Alex Ross who, on the face of it, is an excellent signing from the Adelaide Strikers. All of this considered the Brisbane Heat could be a real challenger for the first time in a while. They will not be effected by Australia call-ups to the extent of other sides and have been lucky so far with injuries – the Perth Scorchers for example appear to have lost three of their best seamers for most of the season. The most important factor though is that they finally seem to have got their recruitment right. There should not be a reliance on Lynn and Badree to win all their games and for once their top order looks like it is as good as any other side and while their bowling is not as strong as some, has the potential is there for success.