THIS season’s batch of international imports in the Big Bash League have had just as much trouble as Alastair Cook’s men in pulling out match-winning performances.
A major part in England’s fall from grace in the recent Ashes series was that their batting line up could only manage one century – compared to ten by their Australian counterparts – while their bowlers were also outdone in the five-wicket hauls department five to two.
However, the Poms can take solace in knowing they aren’t the only visitors to struggle in Australian conditions this summer.
The BBL’s imported batsmen scored seven fifties during the home and away phase of the competition but could not muster a score above 70.
The bowling recruits have hardly fared much better, with no one outside of Perth’s Yasir Arafat collecting more than two wickets in an innings.
The figures don’t make for good reading.
Although some have put in solid performances – with tight bowling throughout from Sri Lankan duo Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga in particular – it is big scores and wicket hauls that win matches.
Such game-turning abilities expected of accomplished imports were on display during the competition’s first two seasons with a combined 15 hauls of three or more wickets from the international contingents in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 editions.
Chris Gayle and Luke Wright were also among the first to score hundreds in the BBL, with both providing blistering exhibitions of hitting in the inaugural season.
However, this season’s group have generally failed to deliver the massive scores or flurry of wickets.
Brisbane Heat general manager Andrew Blucher said while teams looked at overseas player options based on a number of criteria, there is always risk involved in bringing a player into unfamiliar conditions.
“To be honest when you recruit anyone there’s always a component of risk in it,” he said.
“The fact that someone like Dan Vettori is highly experienced and very well credentialed, that gives you the best chance of minimising your risk.”
There are plenty of positives for Australian cricket to take away from the 2013/14 BBL, with an improving domestic scene typified by the way rising talents like Ben Dunk and Cameron Gannon have performed against more accomplished players.
Blucher said the high-profile nature of the BBL provides the platform for lesser known players to make a name for themselves.
There have been a few recruits to buck the trend and play a crucial role for their team, with none more impressive than these three:
Yasir Arafat (Perth Scorchers): Up until he injured his thumb, the former Pakistani bowler had been the buy of the tournament. Arafat is the Scorchers’ leading wicket taker with 14 at 14.75 and has been in a league of his own when bowling at the death.
Luke Wright (Melbourne Stars): A consistent performer for the Stars since the competition kicked off in 2011/12, he’s hit new heights this season with 275 runs, three wickets and three man of the match awards.
Dwayne Bravo (Melbourne Renegades): The West Indian allrounder only played two games but certainly made an impact in that time. His 85 runs and three wickets gave the Renegades every chance to re-ignite their finals hopes.
Here are the players who have especially failed to live up to the expectations of fans and teams – though all but Hales could have the chance to turn things around in next week’s finals series.
Alfonso Thomas (Perth Scorchers): The South African starred last season but has had a horror 2013/14 with just two wickets at an average of 94 and an economy rate of 8.95.
Owais Shah (Hobart Hurricanes): Shah was outstanding for the Hurricanes in the BBL’s first season but may be looking for a new team for the 2014/15 tournament. 52 runs at 10.4 led to him being dropped for the last two matches.
Alex Hales (Adelaide Strikers): Came into the BBL as the world’s best T20 batsman and was expected to propel the Strikers’ title push. However, things didn’t go exactly to plan: Hales did not reach 50 once from eight innings at the top of the order and the Strikers missed the top four.
Shoaib Malik (Hobart Hurricanes): A veteran of 271 limited overs games for Pakistan since 1999, Malik topped the 2013 Caribbean Premier League runs list but contributed only 72 runs and seven wickets across eight BBL games.