We’re seven games into the 2023-24 Big Bash League season, and it looks to be yet another jam-packed season of twenty-over cricket. Unfortunately, a rainout and a tournament-first match abandonment due to a dangerous pitch means we’ve only seen four games so far. But that’s enough to evaluate some team rankings and get stuck into some way too early finals predictions.
8. Melbourne Stars (BBL 12 record: 3 wins – 11 losses, 8th place)
When the BBL first began, the Melbourne Stars were advertised as one of the two marquee franchises to spearhead the tournament, along with the Sydney Sixers. However, the Stars have failed to win a BBL title in the competition’s 13-year history, with the Hobart Hurricanes the only other team not to win it.
Unfortunately, this losing history did not change last season with an abysmal 3-11 record to put them last. The Stars have some great players and renowned superstars in Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, and Joe Burns. Their weakness lies in their bowling with unproven guys like Olly Stone and Usama Mir headlining their attack.
If Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis can carry the batting load for the whole tournament, then maybe they have a chance to do something. But from what I’ve seen in their first two matches, I can’t justify putting them any higher than last place. Again.
7. Hobart Hurricanes (BBL 12: 6-8, 6th)
The only other team never to win a BBL series finds themselves in seventh. While they weren’t completely terrible last year, finishing just behind the Brisbane Heat, who managed to get themselves to the final, I don’t believe the Hurricanes have that sort of tenacity or ability in their squad.
Overall, I think their squad is pretty good and quite well balanced with leading batsmen Ben McDermott, Caleb Jewell, and Matthew Wade. The bowling end is consistent too, with seamers Nathan Ellis and Riley Meredith along with unpredictable spinner Paddy Dooley. I don’t suspect this team will be bad necessarily, I just think there are too many better sides that will go further in the tournament.
6. Melbourne Renegades (BBL 12: 7-7, 3rd)
The Renegades’ standing from last year looks a bit misleading when you consider the difference between third and sixth was just one win and one loss. Ultimately, the Renegades fell into that fourth-to-seventh range of teams who all have a case to be in any one of those positions.
The reason I put them ahead of the Hurricanes was purely on star power, especially when you look at some of the scalps they nabbed from other teams, particularly their spinners in Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon. Unfortunately, Lyon and South African powerhouse Quinton De Kok will be limited in the number of games they will play due to international duties. The two main problems with the Renegades will be their team cohesion, as well as most of their players being over thirty and past their prime.
5. Sydney Thunder (BBL 12: 7-7, 4th)
Perhaps the hardest team to predict, the Sydney Thunder have been drastically inconsistent in their history, yet have seemed to become a steadily competitive team with a crop of players who have now played with each other for a few years in a row.
They bat deep, power hitter Alex Hales and Sheffield Shield leading run scorer Cam Bancroft are up there with being the best opening duos around. Having your captain and star all-rounder Chris Green batting seven is also handy, meaning the opposition are forced to take quick wickets to stand a chance. Unfortunately, the Brisbane Heat did exactly that in the Thunder’s opening game.
But are the Thunder able to be trusted? One night they will pull a game out from nowhere, the next they will fall into a batting collapse. Time will tell with this team but for now, I can’t put them any higher than the middle.
4. Adelaide Strikers (BBL 12: 5-9, 7th)
Probably my hottest take in these rankings, considering they finished second last in BBL 12. You can never count the Strikers out. They have been too consistently good for the entirety of the competition’s history to ever be written off. With Chris Lynn and D’Arcy Short leading your batting, you are bound to have power hitting. Combine that with BBL 12’s leading run-scorer Matt Short, and the Strikers are in the mix for the best batting lineup in the competition. Much like the Stars, the Strikers are very much a batting side, with their bowling unit not nearly being up there with the best. Adelaide may be the pick of the middle teams, but they pale in comparison next to the teams to come.
3. Brisbane Heat (BBL 12: 6-7, 5th/Runner up)
After a shock upset to topple the Sydney Sixers in the semi-final last year, the Brisbane Heat made it to the final only to be nudged out by the Scorchers. The Heat appear to be in a tier of their own, not quite at the level of the big two in the tournament but better than the bottom five.
With a balanced squad that has great chemistry and are all good contributors, the Heat are always going to be competitive. Their mix of youth in players like Nathan McSweeney and Mitch Swepson as well as their experience with players such as Sam Billings, Colin Munro, and Michael Neser means they are adaptable. Their fielding is second only to the Sydney Sixers, which often can be the turning point in matches. If they can manage to get Usman Khawaja and Marcus Labuschagne back for a couple of games at the end of the season, they could very well find themselves at the top of the table.
2. Sydney Sixers (BBL 12: 10-3, 2nd)
One of two BBL giants who year after year find themselves in the mix for the title, the Sydney Sixers are the gold standard for consistency in this tournament. It helps that the majority of this squad have been playing together for a long time.
Their chemistry, fielding, and trust in their teammates often prove the difference-maker against tough competition, as their lineup on paper doesn’t always appear to be the strongest. Their bowling attack is their forte, fielding names such as BBL 12 leading wicket-taker Sean Abbott, Ben Dwarshuis, Jackson Bird, Todd Murphy, and Steve O’Keefe. They’re arguably the best bowling unit in the tournament. When Steve Smith is available he proves to be a game changer as he showed with back to back hundreds at the end of BBL 12. The Sixers will be out for revenge this year, I believe they can make the final, but can they snatch title number four from…
1. Perth Scorchers (BBL 12: 11-3, 1st/Champions)
The most successful franchise in BBL history. Five titles from 8 finals appearances. The Scorchers will always be the favorite until proven otherwise. Much like the Sixers, the Scorchers squads, Perth never look amazing on paper, but it is their emphasis on homegrown talent and chemistry with their team that allows them to go the distance year in, year out.
There seems to be a running theme with the better squads in the competition, in that they have an emphasis on bowling. In the Scorchers’ case, they’re led by veteran seamers Jason Behrendorf, Andrew Tye, Jhye Richardson, and young gun Lance Morris. With All-Rounders Ashton Agar, Aaron Hardie, and Cooper Connelly, this team values athleticism and do-it-all skill sets rather than specialist players. The experience of captain Ashton Turner and the representative repertoire of Josh Inglis and Mitchell Marsh will also elevate this team to another level. Regardless of the other seven teams, Perth are the team to beat and my pick to take out BBL 13.