Have the Brisbane Heat finally got their team composition right?

Samuel Badree bowls for the Brisbane Heat. He will be hoping to lead his side to Big Bash League success.

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.

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Who will become the next dominant force in Test cricket?

testmaceICC CEO Dave Richardson has been heading all over the cricketing world to present his large mace to the alleged number one team. The frequency of his presentations, recently to Misbah-ul-Haq, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli has made a mockery of the ICC’s Test Rankings as it is clear that no team can currently claim to hold the top spot. It is quite unusual for there to be such an equality between so many sides but this is what we are seeing at this current time. There are no great teams that can compare to the Australia side of a decade ago or Graeme Smith’s South Africa in its pomp, but this equality can produce a superb series, as was seen by England and Pakistan in the summer of 2016.

Of the ten Test nations, five find themselves within 13 rating points of each other (the relative value of these rating points is pointlessly complicated and it is not worthwhile attempting to understand how they work. It should just be known that between the top five teams it is incredibly close). At the time of writing, before the 4th Test between India and England, the rankings read as follows:

India – 115.

England – 105.

Australia – 105.

Pakistan – 102.

South Africa – 102.

So where does the balance of power move from here? It is perhaps ominous that the current top three are the so called ‘big three’ that control the revenue of the sport and over the next few years it would be difficult to bet against India becoming, for the first time, the dominant force in Test cricket.

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