BBL Preview - Hobart Hurricanes

Harry (Haarrre)
14 min readDec 16, 2022

For me, the Hurricanes have been one of the biggest under performers in recent seasons. They remain one of only two franchises to have never won a BBL title and considering the squads they’ve often assembled, especially in recent seasons, to have a highest placed finish of 4th in the league stage in any of the last three seasons is a poor effort.

As a result, it’s no surprise to see that there was a coaching change between seasons for the Hurricanes and it was a relatively high profile one, with Ricky Ponting replacing Adam Griffith. Ponting is a coach with plenty of IPL experience, having been in charge of the Delhi Capitals and that represents a big coup for the BBL, to have a coach of that calibre operating in the league.

One of the major issues for the Hurricanes in recent seasons has been failing to get the most out of their overseas players. They’ve generally recruited fairly well but for whatever reason, their overseas players have often underperformed. It isn’t a question of talent, players such as David Miller, Colin Ingram, Dawid Malan, Harry Brook, Qais Ahmad and Will Jacks have all donned the Hobart jersey in recent seasons, yet they’ve mostly flattered to deceive. Is there something in the water down in Hobart or are they struggling to create an environment for overseas players to succeed? Either way, Hobart will be hoping a change in the coaching staff will help with stopping the rot.

While Ponting hasn’t yet had true success in the IPL for the Delhi Capitals, in terms of winning a title, his body of work has been impressive. Assembling a strong squad in the previous auction cycle (2018–21 seasons), that finished in the top 3 (league stage) for three consecutive seasons. Not only that but the value of the squad he assembled went through the roof, with his most common XI in the 2021 season, selling for over 105cr at the IPL mega auction this year:

For perspective, each team had a budget of 90cr for their 18–25 man squads last season, so the DC XI from the prior season went for almost 20% more than the total budget for each team. Ponting is clearly good at identifying talent and building squads.

My early thoughts for this Hobart team is that he looks to have done a similar job here, recruiting some good overseas players and interesting local talents, while also proactively recruiting replacement players for when the first choice overseas players aren’t available:

Availability issues:

  • Faheem Ashraf - On test duy with Pakistan, will likely miss the first 8–9 games of the season.
  • Shadab Khan - Pakistan have an ODI series in the middle of the BBL, taking place from Jan 10–14th. Shadab should be available for the first 6–7 games and then the last four, plus knockouts, assuming he returns to Australia after the ODI series.
  • Billy Stanlake - Recovering from an injury. Played a grade cricket match last weekend so should be available fairly swiftly.

Hobart went with an all Pakistan trio with their overseas picks at the draft, a move that will surely make them the most popular BBL side in Pakistan. How many games that trio will actually play together is less certain. Asif Ali is available for the full tournament, while the other two will both miss games, with Faheem missing a significant chunk of the season, assuming he’s in the test squad against New Zealand. The three of them should all be available for the last few group games, plus knockout matches, as long as Shadab returns to the competition after international duty.

Though they aren’t exactly like for like replacements, recruiting two players with the quality of Crawley and Neesham is a good effort, considering the lack of options available, as a result of the multiple t20 competitions, plus international series’ taking place in the next couple of months.

Domestically, it’s a fairly similar squad to the one they had last season, which was already strong. They have lost Tom Rogers, who did well for them last season but replaced him with Billy Stanlake. The focus will be on getting more out of the impressive core they already had, as well as better performances from overseas players. Hobart will be hoping that Ponting can have a big impact in this regard.

Possible XI:

Because of the weird availability status’ of their international players, it’s likely that Hobart will never really have a settled XI throughout the tournament. This would be the XI I’d expect for the first few games of the season:

The top 3 could realistically be in any order but I’d open with Wade, as he’s probably the most likely to utilise the powerplay of the 3. However, that doesn’t seem likely with Ricky Ponting recently confirming that D’Arcy Short will open the batting, a move I’m not necessarily a fan of. Short has often got stuck at the top of the order in recent seasons and has just ended up batting for the sake of it, consuming lots of deliveries and harming his team’s chances. I guess Hobart will be hoping that by backing him to start the season, we’ll get to see a more proactive version of D’Arcy Short this time around.

Based on a couple of other quotes, Shadab Khan is expected to bat in the middle order, with a powerful trio of Tim David, Asif Ali and Neesham behind him.

One argument about this XI could be that it’s potentially a batter light and I can see that, however, with the strength and run scoring ability of that top 3, it looks okay to me. With Neesham playing instead of Faheem, I think playing the extra bowler is more of a priority, I’m not sure I’d want to go in with Neesham as a fifth bowling option. If they wanted to go down the batting-heavy route Caleb Jewell would likely come in for one of Dooley/Paris.

Joel Paris ins’t a certain starter but seems likely to feature while Stanlake is unavailable and probably deserves a run in the side with Faheem missing the first half of the tournament. Chris Tremain is another option they could go with. Nathan Ellis and Riley Meredith will be certain starters.

This is how I potentially see their XI looking when at full strength:

The added bowling quality of Faheem would allow them to go down the route of picking an extra batter if they wanted, though it’s again questionable whether that would be worthwhile or not. Even with the extra batter in the XI, there’s still five main bowling options, plus Short/David as sixth bowling options. A potential issue with this XI could be only having one frontline spin option, however, Hobart is generally a tough venue for spinners and is more suited to pacers. In away matches there’s enough flexibility to bring in an extra spinner, either for Caleb Jewell or Paris/Stanlake.

Things get more complicated with the XI when Zak Crawley comes in as the Shadab replacement. Losing an all-rounder of his quality will really test their balance and backup spin options:

If the best case scenario is correct and Shadab only misses three games on the 7th, 10th & 15th (Hobart also have games on the 5th & 18th) then they’d be missing Shadab for two home games, as well as an away game against the Renegades. The home games will be less problematic but the away game could be tough, with the Renegades typically producing slower/spin-friendly conditions. Will Parker could be play in that one.

The other issue with this side is the top four combination and how they work around that. For me, Zak Crawley has to open, the other three are more likely to adapt successfully to non-opening roles. Potentially having Wade/McDermott at 4 might not be ideal.

Overall, it’s clear that this Hobart team is one of the strongest teams in the competition when it full strength. The key and potentially defining factor in their season will be how they negotiate the matches where they don’t have their first choice overseas trio aren’t available.

Team strengths:

  • Top order - A top 3 of Wade, McDermott and Short is one of the best, if not the best and also one of the most reliable top 3’s in the tournament. Between them they’ve scored over 4000 runs in the BBL since the start of 2019, averaging 38 and striking at 137. However, they’ll be hoping that Short can provide a bit more than he has in the previous two seasons. If that happens and Wade/McDermott maintain their level, it’ll be an incredible top 3 for the BBL.
  • Pace hitters - There’s good hitters of pace throughout the XI, starting with Wade at the top of the order and finishing with David, Asif Ali and Neesham/Faheem lower down the order. Crawley is also a good player of pace bowling. This should be particularly beneficial for their home games. I doubt many opposition batting attacks will be able to match their quality against pace.
  • Middle overs/death overs bowling options - Nathan Ellis is probably the best death bowler in Australia so he’ll do the majority of work in that phase. While they have plenty of options through the middle, Shadab will be the obvious threat but Meredith also does well in the middle overs and theoretically it should be a phase that suits Billy Stanlake.
  • LH/RH combinations - Some of the players in the XI aren’t the greatest players of spin but the regularity of LHB & RHB partnerships should somewhat negate the impact of that, as well as helping them cash in on smaller boundaries at lopsided grounds.

Team weaknesses:

  • Spin options when Shadab isn’t there - In the spin department they’re extremely reliant on Shadab. The only other frontline spin options are Dooley and Parker, who’ve made less than 10 BBL appearances between them.
  • Powerplay bowling options - This is particularly relevant while Faheem Ashraf isn’t available but it’s probably a general concern for them anyway. They don’t have a clear ‘banker’ for the powerplay, with no obvious wicket taking threats and most of their pace options have struggled to restrict runs in the first four overs. Luckily for them it is only a four over powerplay in the BBL.
  • Slow starts (potentially) - They do look reliant on Wade giving them a bit of impetus at the top of the order and he isn’t even guaranteed to be opening. Typically in the last two seasons McDermott and Short haven’t offered much acceleration in the powerplay, striking at 106 and 85 respectively inside the first four overs across the last two seasons.

Player notes:

D’Arcy Short

  • Confirmed to be opening, not a huge fan of this move.
  • It’ll be an attempt to get the best out of him after an underwhelming past two seasons, where he’s averaged 30 and struck at 116.
  • In those two seasons he’s batted up & down the order but has still opened in 18/29 of his innings - striking at 115 in those games.
  • Averages 23, while striking at 116 against LA pace since the start of 2021.
  • Secure against spin but sometimes struggles to accelerate.
  • As I mentioned earlier, has struggled to utilise the powerplay in the last two season, striking at just 85 in that phase (89 when opening).
  • Bowling will be needed at times, especially when Shadab isn’t around.

Ben McDermott

  • Has been amazing for Hobart in the last two seasons, scoring almost 1000 runs (AV 42, SR 148).
  • Improvements against spin have been critical for that:
Screenshot from cricmetric
  • Moving away from a middle order role has also helped.
  • Like Short, has also been a slow starter, they might not be the ideal pairing.
  • Once set, he’s accelerated seriously well through the middle overs. Striking at almost 170 outside the powerplay and over 200 in the last 10 overs (last two BBL seasons).

Matthew Wade

  • Recent BBL record is excellent - scoring 1373 runs in the last four seasons, averaging 38, while striking at over 150. That did drop to 27 & 134 last season.
  • Issues against spin are well-documented, especially in Asian conditions but that’s been less of an issue in BBL:

Still expect him to struggle against wrist spin, should be okay against orthodox spin.

  • SR of 164 against pace since the start of 2019.
  • Better against RA pace - is dismissed every 13 balls by LA pace.

Shadab Khan

  • After a blip, Shadab has been excellent with the ball over the last 12–18 months.
  • The same could be said for his batting utility, proving to be particularly useful in the middle order.
  • Strikes at over 150 against wrist spin, SLA is the spin matchup to him, otherwise it’s pace.
  • Has a strike rate of exactly 150 in the 29 occasions he’s batted at 4 & 5 since the start of 2019, which is where he should bat in this tournament.

Caleb Jewell

  • Underwhelming t20 record - with a career strike rate of under 120, (122 since the start of 2019).
  • Did play a few handy knocks towards the end of last season, hitting 30+ in three out of his last four innings.
  • More likely to be used in a middle order role this season and I’m not convinced he has the power for that.

Tim David

  • Bigger boundaries taming the beast? - Obviously a phenomenal player but the BBL/Australia is arguably the country where he’s had the most struggles in his career thus far:
Games for Singapore not included

Granted he’s still been very good in Australia and a few of these games would’ve come before he really took off in t20 cricket but I’m being pedantic, as he doesn’t really have any obvious weaknesses.

  • Incredible power against pace, both off the back foot and front foot.
  • Spin is generally a slightly better option to him, though it’s just as risky at Hobart.

Asif Ali

  • First overseas t20 assignment since the CPL in August 2021.
  • Brilliant six hitter - hitting a six every 10 deliveries.
  • Reliability is often overrated in t20’s but Asif Ali could really do with being a bit more consistent than he has been over the last 12–18 months.
  • Strikes at almost 160 vs pace, so this tournament should suit him on a basic level.
  • The extremities of the conditions in Australia will likely test and could trouble him. It’ll be interesting to see how he does over the course of a full season.

Faheem Ashraf

  • Strong PSL record - striking at 150 with the bat and going at just under 8 rpo with the ball (SR 16) across the last four seasons.
  • Main utility with the ball is during the powerplay, though he does have a decent record at the death. Numbers can sometimes be deceiving for players that bowl a limited amount in a certain phase.
  • Useful option with the bat, especially against pace and is good off the back foot.
  • Better record against LHB’s.

Nathan Ellis

  • Predominantly bowls through the middle and at the death.
  • Has good changes of pace, an excellent yorker and is also deceptively quick at times - able to hit speeds of 140+.
  • Death overs economy rate of 8.3 rpo, though this is slightly higher in the BBL (8.8 rpo), possibly to do with the power surge.
  • Power surge numbers are okay - goes at 10.8 rpo, not terrible by any means but given how good he is at the death, you might expect slightly better. Nevertheless it’s a role he’ll continue to do this season.
  • Much better against LHB’s, as is the case with many lower release point bowlers.
  • Provides a bit of batting depth.

Riley Meredith

  • Has struggled to step up to higher levels.
  • Excellent in the BBL though - going at 7.64 rpo across the last three seasons, taking 42 wickets (SR 15).
  • Decent record in all phases but generally best in an ‘enforcer’ style role - Econ of 6.9 rpo and a SR of 15 in the middle overs (last three BBL seasons).
  • Can reach speeds in the low 150’s when he’s at his best.

Patrick Dooley

  • Could be one to watch out for, ‘SLA’ bowler that caught my eye in the one game he played for Brisbane Heat last season.
  • Featured in the T10 recently, going at just under 10 rpo in the five games he played.
  • Unusual action and the type of bowler that could be difficult to pick up early in your innings.

Joel Paris

  • Has only played nine BBL games in the last four seasons.
  • Hard to read too much into his current t20 ability based on that but did take five wickets in three games last season.
  • Has been bowling well in domestic cricket. Averaging 18 in Shield cricket this season, going at only 1.8 rpo in the process.
  • Left arm pace bowler that can swing the new ball, should get a run of games ahead of any of the other pace bowlers in my opinion.

Billy Stanlake

  • Missed all of last season through injury.
  • Has an unusually poor strike rate in recent BBL seasons, only taking a wicket every 25 deliveries.
  • Another bowler that’s probably more suited to bowling through the middle.

Jimmy Neesham

  • Handy player to get as a replacement player given the current climate.
  • Striking at 163 against non-spin since the start of 2021, should be well-suited to batting in Australia.
  • Bowling is limited, though it has improved a bit. Will mainly look to ball cross seam deliveries and take the pace off.

Zak Crawley

  • Hasn’t played much t20 cricket but has impressed in his limited chances, though it’s mainly been the T20 Blast.
  • Struggled a bit more this year (AV 20, SR 118), however, he’s only played nine games.
  • Prior to that he was averaging 33 and striking at 152 in the previous three seasons.
  • A long overdue chance in a franchise league in my opinion and the BBL is perhaps the ideal league for him.
  • Likes to sweep against spin but has a weakness against SLA.

Player stats sheet:

Summary

Overall, there’s obviously a lot to like about this Hobart side and they’re definitely one of the stronger teams in the tournament. On paper, it feels like we’ve said that before. Can a new coaching set up get more out of the players than those in charge previously managed?

You’d like to think so. Regardless of that, they look to have an XI that’s particularly suited to home conditions in Hobart. Availability for key domestic players isn’t an issue for them this year, which has often been the case in the past.

There’ll likely be a few games where the balance of their XI looks a little off, though there’s not much they can do about that. When you lose a world class all-rounder like Shadab Khan, you’re going to feel the implications of it, having two games at home in that period should help limit the damage.

Internally, the Hurricanes have every reason to be enthusiastic about earning their maiden BBL title. As a neutral, I’ll remain a bit more cautious, based on what I’ve seen from them in previous seasons. However, I’m expecting a top 3 finish.

Thanks for reading!

Stats: cricmetric

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