The Covid 19 pandemic had life-changing repercussions on people belonging to different walks of life and sport is no different to it. Our beloved sport, cricket is back to life, even if that means following strict quarantine protocols to ensure there is no mishap owing to the virus. Cricketers are forced to stay in isolation and serve the stipulated period of quarantine before they participate in any scheduled overseas tournaments like IPL and BBL.
While the picture may appear soothing from the outside, it is not easy for the players to be part of such frequent bio-bubbles. Many players have pulled out off important tournaments citing bubble fatigue and augmented need to spend time with family. The environment has been depressing for the players, who are not used to stay alone and away from people. You definitely need people around to share your thoughts, emotions and spend some time away from the sport to only return fresh and rejuvenated.
With the 10th season of BBL about to start in a day’s time, a few renowned internationals have pulled out of the tournament citing same reasons and the management also have been kind enough to understand their situation and grant them the permission to miss the season. Their absence will indeed have telling effect on the overall campaign for the respective teams and the support staff are doing their best to fill the void left by that particular player. Here are the 5 overseas players, who aren’t part of the season and thus, will be dearly missed by their franchises:
1. Tom Banton (England)
The Somerset youngster was the highlight of the season playing for the Brisbane Heat. Banton accumulated 223 runs in 7 games at a mind-boggling strike rate of 176.98 with the best score of 64.
Opening the innings with the powerful and sturdy Australian, Chris Lynn, the Englishman left no stone unturned and went hell for leather in the first six. If the ball was in his arc, he made sure that it travelled to various sides of the ground with ease. Banton mostly favoured the midwicket region and cleared his front leg well to get the timing and power behind the ball.
The swashbuckler slammed 16 sixes in the previous season and compelled the world to take his notice. His successful batting stint with the Heat helped him in earning a national call-up as well as a bid at the IPL from the Knight Riders.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t live up to the reputation at the recently held IPL, getting out to in-swingers and short balls, but as all know, he is a work in progress. Banton will only get better as the years pass by and will be an integral member of the England limited-overs side.
His absence will indeed be difficult to plug in, who emerged as a super-striker at the top of the order. Heat will need to find a suitable option, who can atleast get near to what Banton did last season rather than completely emulating him.
The void also means added responsibility on skipper Lynn, who has been in hard-hitting form playing for Queensland in a recent tournament and will hope that the dream run continues for the larger good of the franchise.
2. AB de Villiers (South Africa)
If it’s T20 cricket, ABD
The way he performed for RCB at the recently concluded IPL, it seemed like he has been playing cricket throughout the year and the pandemic never seemed to exist. Be it the slower ball or a pacy, fiery delivery, everything disappeared alike and there was no hiding space for the bowlers.
Out of the 7 matches that RCB won, ABD single-handedly finished 4 of them and made a mockery of the opposition bowling attack. The longer boundaries at Abu Dhabi and Dubai were just the spectators as the stylish right-hander whacked the ball to different directions.
What was more special is that he did all this with the added responsibility of keeping for the side. The role kept ABD in proper stead to face the bowlers, who can now better comprehend what exactly the bowler might be thinking.
His unfortunate absence owing to the birth of his third child shall never be filled and it will be upon coach Lehmann and captain Lynn to assemble a balanced and a strong XI, who can contribute in their best possible way to provide the psychological edge and win crucial encounters.
3. Tom Curran (England)
This bowler turned all-rounder playing for the Sixers has left a massive void with his withdrawal. It is while plying his trade for the franchise that he transformed into a hard-hitting batsman down the order.
With the ball, Curran has picked 42 wickets from 27 innings with best bowling figures of 4-22. While batting in the 19 innings, he has contributed 318 runs at an outstanding strike rate of 146.54 and the highest score of 62. The elder Curran has also smashed 8 sixes and 34 boundaries during his batting stint.
The numbers indeed speak in a volume of his impeccability with the ball and magnificent striking with the illustrious willow. His absence will certainly affect the balance and strength of the side, who acted as a filler performing both the roles with aplomb.
Being the defending champs, Sixers will need to figure out the remedy for this problem and come out all guns blazing in the season opener, setting a requisite template to be followed for the rest of the tournament.
4. David Miller (South Africa)
The southpaw from South Africa is one of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball going around. His powerful bat swing ensures that the ball lands on the top tier and there is no other option but to bring another one into play.
Playing for Hobart Hurricanes in the last season, Miller pummeled 198 runs from 14 matches at a good strike rate of 131.13. His highest score of 90 suggests that he can play those long innings which will assist the team in setting or chasing imposing totals on the board.
Apart from his explosive batting, Miller is a gun-fielder in the outfield, who can pull off astonishing catches and stop vital runs by throwing his body around. The aspect is just a value addition to his spectacular cricketing CV tailor-made to represent the shortest format of the game.
With the inclusion of no. 1 T20I batsman, Malan, Hurricanes are making up for the missing pieces in their title-winning puzzle, and if everything goes well, the dream shall indeed materialize, channelling their inner strength, patience and perseverance into desired reality.
5. Jonny Bairstow (England)
With his recent performances at the top of the order, Bairstow has become an integral member of any T20 franchise whose presence is a huge indication of success for the batsman if set, does the job for the team.
His IPL returns have been beyond extraordinary as Bairstow has galore 790 runs from 21 games at a breathtaking strike rate of 142.34. He has already completed a century in his short IPL career with the best score of 114.
Representing the Sunrisers, he formed a potent opening pair with Australian David Warner. Inspite of the diverse origin and cultures, they both complimented each other well and it never seemed like they belonged to different geographies.
Stars who included him in their squad hoped for a similar show with the bat at the upcoming BBL, but an international commitment brought all those plans to a standstill and Bairstow will have to wait until next season to make his most anticipated debut at the league.
There is no doubt that the Stars will miss his services, but at the moment they have nothing to worry as fellow Australians, Maxwell and Stoinis are in red-hot form and the Windies compatriots, Pooran and Fletcher know nothing but absolute destruction. The four already make a strong and devastating top and middle order, leaving very little for the lower half to do, that too in the worst scenario.