The Big Bash League has been superb in attracting high-quality overseas players for the tenth instalment of the competition. The top-ranked t20I batsman, bowler and all-rounder are among the international firepower on display.
Each year, the playing rosters of each squad are filled by excess International players. A practice which Evan Gulbis thinks holds back local talent. While the former Hobart Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars all-rounder sees the need to attract top-line International talent to have a high standard competition, he worries at times clubs fill up their quota of internationals unnecessarily.
“If we’re playing players as internationals that are no better than our locals I don’t like it and I think… there’s internationals playing in the BBL where a local could’ve done just as much and I would like that local to get the opportunity,” Gulbis said
“The Perth Scorchers for example, [in BBL|07] they only had one overseas player (David Willey).
“Now they’re statistically the strongest club and they’re bowling stocks at Perth- which was basically the WA squad- was strong enough that they felt like they didn’t need to go and get another overseas player so I love that.
“So the fact they were willing to back their own that shows me a lot of maturity in the decision making.
“There are plenty of international players who come out to Australia during the summer that would be willing to put their hand up for 20-30 grand but what I’m saying is ‘why wouldn’t you give 20-30 grand to a Brayden Stepien or James Seymour who both average 150+ in [Victorian] grade cricket and making runs for fun? Why wouldn’t you give them an opportunity?’”
Gulbis argues that doing this would allow greater exposure for premier cricketers, such as Stepien, who played two games for the Melbourne Renegades last season. He spoke of the professionalism he picked up from being in the environment, which he was then able to take back to his premier side, Carlton.
That can increase the standard of the squad, and competition more broadly, if done on a wider scale, heating up the battle for higher honours. A positive for Victorian cricket.
“It was really good to see the way Finchy (Aaron Finch) went about his preparation and how different guys prepare differently for their games and learning to be professional towards my cricket,” Stepien said
“Having the likes of [Michael] Maxy Klinger coaching, his record is remarkable so having him overlook the way you play…”
“All the coaches there are really good as well, they’ve got so much knowledge that all it is trying to be a sponge in situations like that.”
It can also be in clubs’ best interests to look local before global because premier cricketers can be an unknown quantity. Take recent Renegades sensation Peter Hatzoglou for example. He’s been damaging in his first two matches, picking up four wickets with darting leg-breaks that no opponent had ever faced.
By contrast, in between Hatzoglou’s matches, the top-ranked t20I bowler in the world, Rashid Khan, was taken for 25 in an over by Darcy Short. The Hurricanes left-hander told channel seven he had the confidence to take the Afghani down having faced him several times in t20 leagues across the globe.
In the short term, clubs benefit from having unseen grade cricketers since the opposition doesn’t know their strengths. For the player, Gulbis highlights it’s working on back plans and having enough weapons in their arsenal to combat high-quality opposition as being the source of the improvement from playing in the high-octane situations.
However, the Carlton captain-coach admits professional cricket isn’t for every run-scoring or wicket-taking premier cricketer.
“There’s a lot of things that go into playing cricket at the higher level; there’s the media, there’s the expectation, there’s the training day to day, and it’s not for everyone.
“A football analogy would be disposals in local level every week, now if he played AFL is he gonna get 30 disposals against Patty Cripps and Josh Dunkley and all of those guys? Whereas someone who’s ‘flairy’ and got X-Factor could potentially do that in any type of football.
“That’s where I look at someone like Brayden and think he just needs opportunity and probably a preseason to do it so if he was in the Vic squad he’d be primed to play the BBL right now.”
Right now, Stepien’s enjoying his cricket as much as ever and re-iterated the need to ‘control what [he] can control.’ But as Gulbis points out the relationship between Premier and State cricket is ‘virtually non-existent’ so one can only hope Stepien and others are given due recognition.