One major reason for the Big Bash’s ongoing success is that it appeals to such a broad audience. Some people watch it to laugh at Shane Watson running himself out, others to win ‘mad swag’ (whatever the hell that is). Some even watch it for the cricket. For us, the main appeal of the Big Bash is to catch up on all the ‘nearly men’ of Australian cricket who inevitably wash up in it. Those cricketers who briefly promised to charge onto the international stage, sweeping all before them in imitation of the patron saint of once unfashionable cricketers: Steven Peter Devereux Smith.
Thus, here is our handy team-by-team guide to all those players who you might recognise, but can’t for the life of you remember why.
The Heat contain such a welter of failed prospects in their squad it’s hard to choose just one. Not one but two failed Test openers are on their books: Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw, whilst Sam Heazlett, to the utter bemusement of the entire macroverse, actually played an ODI game for Australia once. But our pick is one Ben Cutting. Once on the verge of the Australian Test setup as a breakaway fast bowler, he is now more of an all-rounder. A batting all-rounder at that. Which sounds like a Devereux-like transformation, only Cutting’s only real skill is in hitting the ball a long way, quite a useful skill in the context of the Big Bash.
Another squad packed to the rafters with nearly men: George Bailey, Cameron Boyce, Alex Doolan and Dan Christian for instance. Up to a few months ago, we could have included Tim Paine in that list too. But with Paine now experiencing a late-career renaissance we will instead nominate Matt Wade as the most interesting case. Wade’s greatest (only) attribute appears to be his sledging. But with his Test spot gone, and his ODI position tenuous, Wade might want to start thinking about adding another string to his bow. Like batting. Or even competent wicket-keeping.
With an average squad age of 87, there are a few washed up players who never quite hit their straps to choose from in the Renegades. Brad Hodge and Cameron White are the obvious choices, being causes célèbres of disenfranchised Victorians everywhere. Meanwhile, there are a few vague prospects whose careers seem to refuse to fully ignite, such as Marcus Harris and Chris Tremain. But it is hard to overlook Joe Mennie here. A Sheffield Shield topping wicket-taker who had the unfortunate luck of timing his run to the Test team to coincide with Australia’s most disastrous home performance of many a year, the comedy genius of Hobart, 2016. It’s hard to see his career ever recovering from that shambles.
The Stars tag of being the ‘elite’ squad of the Big Bash seems hard to justify when one-Test wonder Michael Beer is usually given new ball duties. Peter Handscomb may also soon find himself on the same washed-up list if he doesn’t correct his current slump. And then there are the likes of Ben Hilfenhaus. But, of course, the Stars contain one of the great ‘nearly men’ of recent decades. With a Test batting average of just three, it is impossible to overlook Rob Quiney.
Being that most New South Welshmen are handed a baggy green at birth, just in case, there is no shortage of failed prospects in the Sixers’ squad. We are loath to include Moises Henriques amongst their number as we still believe in his transcendental potential. But sadly we are probably the last people left on that particular train. Instead the obvious choice is Nic Maddinson. It’s probably unfair that Maddinson is now considered a failed prospect, but only because he should never have played Test cricket in the first place.
The Thunder, meanwhile, contain an equal number of notable personalities. Clint McKay and Callum Ferguson are outstanding examples of their kind. Indeed Ferguson should win this race in a canter, except we have opted instead for Kurtis Patterson. Once considered one of the finest batting prospects in Australia, his career is currently in the doldrums. Although we still expect him to receive a Test call up in the near future regardless. He is a New South Welshman after all.
By far the best squad in the tournament still contains a few oddities – Hilton Cartwright has surely played his last Test match for a long, long time while the trio of perma-crocked fast bowlers (Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Joel Paris) are endlessly fascinating. But our nomination goes to James Muirhead. Briefly considered the best leg spinning prospect in the land, and Australia’s front line spinner at the 2014 T20 World Cup, he has barely played since, and is supposedly having a hard time holding down a spot in Perth’s First-grade competition. Which is pretty sad really.
We’ve left the Strikers to last because it’s the hardest squad of the lot. We could possibly name Ben Laughlin, but nobody ever considered him a world beater. Whilst Peter Siddle was, in hindsight, fortunate to enjoy the career he did. Other than that there is little to choose from. Perhaps Billy Stanlake might, in time, be considered worthy of consideration if he can’t stop pieces of his body from continuously falling off. Like a latter day Bruce Reid. But otherwise the Renegades squad is pretty solid. Maybe Jason Gillespie is the real deal after all.