Almanac Cricket: Reaching for the Stars – again



IS there anything more frustrating than following Carlton during the footy season?


Yep, following the Melbourne Stars during the cricket season.


I do both, and haven’t had the desired result from one since 1995 or from the other in the 10 full years that they have been in existence, despite being loaded with highly-paid local and international talent every campaign as well as an all-star range of camp followers including Eddie McGuire, Ian Chappell, Viv Richards and, of course, not forgetting their first captain, Shane Warne.


The Green Team are experts at finding a way to let you down just when you think they’ve got the game skun.


It happened again this week when their main man Glenn Maxwell smashed an extraordinary century against the Sydney Sixers at the MCG – the best innings he’s ever played in the Big Bash, which is saying a bit – and still they managed to walk away without the choccies.


To be fair, it wasn’t a case of the Stars losing the game but the Sixers winning it – and there is a difference, of course – when their best player Josh Philippe responded with what was an even better knock than Maxwell’s.


Games like these are the reason I have always been a big fan of the Big Bash and Twenty 20 cricket in general, and I suspect there might be a lot more like me these days than there used to be, when it was widely bagged as unskilful, lightweight dross.


There was certainly no shortage of acclaim for the national team when they won the recent world championship for the first time, and the proliferation of tournaments around the world – led by the incredibly successful and mega-rich Indian Premier League – means that it is now as much a staple as the other two forms, especially for female cricketers.


It was pleasing being back at the mighty MCG – a second home for all of my working life – after an unusually prolonged absence, my least appearance having been to watch the Blues play Geelong in April which left me with no choice but to quarantine for a fortnight because I had sat within a bull’s roar of someone who had covid.


Ah yes, covid. Remember that? We’ve stopped being spooked by that, haven’t we? It’s not really an issue any more – right? That was the mood as a fair-sized crowd mingled in the bars, eateries and seating bays as the Stars and the Sixers came out to play.


Well, wrong. It hasn’t gone away, as we were reminded starkly less than 24 hours later when the Australian captain Pat Cummins was forced to pull out of the second Test because he had dined near a positive case while we were mixing freely at the G.


Melbourne cricket crowds love their own and Maxwell is no exception, not least because he is not only the Stars’ captain and best player but with the exception of rookie all-rounder Brody Couch – a new arrival from Geelong – he was the only born-and-bred local in the team on Wednesday night.


That’s not all that unusual in T20, which encourages peripatetic mercenaries such as Jamaican Andre Russell, currently in the middle of a five-match stint with the Stars, who was playing his 391st match for his 28th team, including two others in the Big Bash.


Maxwell was pumping him up, pre-match, as the best T20 player in the world – late innings big hitter, genuinely quick bowler, athletic fielder and colourful personality.


He has won two world championships with the Windies but played just a single Test match, scoring two and taking 1-73 against Sri Lanka in 2010.


There aren’t many who are better to watch than Maxwell when he comes off, but you do have to accept that you never quite know what you’re going to get, and his erratic and sometimes suicidal methods can be disappointing – for him and everyone watching.


This time we were all in luck when he survived an outfield catch on 15 and proceeded to smash a dozen fours and three sixes – becoming only the second player behind Queenslander Chris Lynn to clear the fence 100 times  – as he roared to 103 off 57 balls, taking the Stars from a sluggish start of 2/12 in the four-over powerplay to a challenging 177, enough to win most games.


Interestingly, he employed mostly orthodox(ish) cricket shots with a minimum of reverses and ramps, at least until the last stages of his knock, which might have had the effect of making him harder to dismiss. Food for thought, perhaps?


Shane Warne – and he wasn’t alone in this, I thought the same thing myself  – tweeted that it was as good a T20 knock “as you will ever see.”


In fact, we had to wait no longer than 15 minutes to see arguably a better one.


Josh Philippe, 24, enhanced his growing reputation as one of the most talented young batsmen in the land in any format by batting throughout the innings, slamming the fourth ball of the last over for six to walk off 99 not out.


He didn’t quite match Maxwell’s hundred but he offered no chances and made sure his team won, which was enough to make him man of the match IMO.


It took him to a competition-high 259 runs from four matches, with three fifties, which underscores how unlucky he was not to feature in the World Cup, where he was part of the sqauad.


The Stars must have been sick of the sight of him – and of the Sixers.


Philippe had also got 83 in a rout on the opening night of the tournament when the Sixers beat the Stars for the sixth time in a row. Two of those had been with a ball to spare, this one was with two balls, so it’s not as if they Sydneysiders – premiers for the past two seasons – are unbeatable. Only that the Stars aren’t the mob to do it, or haven’t been since Marcus Stoinis took a competition record 147 of them at the G two seasons ago.


The Stars went on that year to win 10 of 14 games and finished on top of the ladder, Stoinus amassed 705 runs to be the player of the tournament, they got through to the final – and lost. Yes, to the Sixers by 19 runs.


Last year they didn’t even make the finals.


They have now played in eight of 10 finals series, been minor premiers three times and runners-up three times – and never champions.


Are we watching the creation of the biggest jinx in contemporary Australian sport?


Read more from Ron Reed Here.


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  1. Hard enough being a Carlton supporter I would have thought, Ron, without adding the mental torment of taking the BBL seriously. I certainly defer to your greater experience in sport reporting and writing, but I struggle to understand the attraction of these BBL franchises. They seem to me about as genuine as a $3 bill (or the Adelaide Crows, but that’s another story). As you say, a bunch of mercenaries who turn up, play for their cash and depart in a puff of smoke. The concept of them being a “club” or a “team” is a bridge too far for me.

    I watch small sessions spasmodically, but cannot get enthused about the so-called “teams”. Rashid Khan here in Adelaide is worth watching, but I also watch other games and teams just for the individuals playing. In the same way as I watch West Coast Eagles games just to see Naitanui play, despite being a Port Adelaide supporter. Buddy Franklin, Shaun Burgoyne and others are worth watching.

  2. I completely understand your perspectives, Bucko, and don’t disagree. However, after many years of barracking for the story — whatever provides the best copy — rather than the result across all sports, I now find I enjoy it more if I have some kind of investment in the outcome. It’s a bit like going to the races and having a small bet on every race just so I have some skin in the game. Also, no matter who you support in the footy you’ll be barracking every week for players you were barracking against last season, or will be next season. Yes, the Big Bash takes that concept to another level — but I just like watching it and supporting a team enhances the experience in a way that watching any other two teams play does not. Mind you, let’s not get too deep and meaningful about all this — the BBL is still lightweight entertainment that will never get within cooee of the AFL’s ability to get people to commit heart and soul to the game and to their team all their lives. Even Carlton supporters! (And yes, I spent a third of my life barracking for another team, but that’s another story.)

  3. Yes, agree about the BBL being lightweight compared to Aussie Rules. Suppose most of us have been brought up following a team in Aussie Rules, whereas the BBL has only existed for 10 years. Cricket was something where you barracked for your State, or the national team against some foreign invaders. Yet kids growing up now, in the current sport environment, may well develop a life long attachment to a BBL franchise, as with a footy team.

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