By special guest contributor Greg Evans The Big Bash starts on Friday and all signs point to this years competition being a betting bonanza. 8 new teams with lot of overseas players and the movement of interstate players means that previous season or even early Australian Domestic season form can not be entirely relied upon. But for those who do a bit of homework, the opportunities are there to make some profit. What follows is my analysis and staking plans for 4 of the Big Bash teams for which I believe the market has got the tournament winner pricing wrong. #1 The Favourite : Melbourne Renegades One of the new Melbourne teams, taking a handful of players from the successful Victorian state side and adding some useful interstate and international imports these guys have great potential to succeed. They are the deserved competition favourites. Key Players :- Brad Hodge – One of the most experienced domestic players going around, Hodge has a powerful hitting game and a long track record of getting Victorian One-Day and T20 teams off to blinding starts at the top of the order. Currently has a hamstring injury, but should only miss 1 or 2 games. Aaron Finch – Another strong opener for Victorian sides in One-Day and T20 formats. Sometimes flies under the radar, but his powerful hitting sees him with a T20 average of 37 at a strike rate of 131. His combination with Brad Hodge is historically the most successful domestic T20 opening partnership. Nathan Reardon – Poached from Queensland, he is also under the radar but is another powerful hitter who has produced more than a few useful cameos. Form can be intermittent, but when he fires he can clear the fence with ease. Andrew McDonald – Former Australian international player gets his chance at captaincy with the Renegades. A handy medium pace all-rounder and reasonable stroke maker, it is his game experience and dedication as a new captain (out from under Cameron Whites shadow) which will be of great value. Shahid Afridi – International Pakistani player and, in my opinion, the best short format cricketer in the world presently. He can blast boundaries and pick up wickets with his legbreaks, he’s been injecting energy and enthusiasm into the Pakistani team for years and has the ability to turn matches. His recent form for Pakistan has been outstanding. Abdul Razzaq – Another International Pakistani all-rounder with a powerful hitting game and a T20 average of 28 at a strike rate of 142. His fast-medium bowling is also a feature and his combination with Afridi gives the Renegades a strong international synergy. Glenn Maxwell – Yet another solid all-rounder who is under the radar. Maxwell has been having a solid season for the Victorians and has even opened the bowling for their Ryobi side recently. Pretty handy with the bat too scoring a handy 50 off 37 balls against the touted Queensland attack to rescue the Victorians just over a week ago. He will miss the first game due to playing in the CA Chairmans XI against India, but is definitely in form and on the rise. Shaun Tait – Poached from South Australia, the “Wild Thing” has become a professional T20 player and is renowned for his slinging thunderbolts. On his day one of the most intimidating T20 bowlers, yet at his worst he sometimes suffers from lacking confidence and/or when under pressure. However, in a new team surrounded by quality, experience and enthusiasm, he is bound to fire. Dirk Nannes – Aged 35, the world is quick to forget that this guy is the leading wicket taker in the Big Bash and has become another T20 specialist who plays around the world. His experience and cunning will be a feature of the Renegades bowling attack. Ryan Carters – The wicket keeper and only negative I can see in this team. I’ve watched him bat a couple of times this season and he has plenty of dot balls in him. Hopefully he bats at #9 because he has the potential to grind an innings to a halt. His keeping seems ok though. Summary :- The number and quality of the all-rounders in this team means that they can bat deep and not need to rely on too many specialist bowlers. Afridi and Maxwell have the spin department covered, while Tait and Nannes can spearhead a solid and experienced pace attack. The batsmen above are ALL power hitters and can clear the fence. The only weakness, in my opinion, is the wicket keeper Staking Advice :- Back Melbourne Renegades for 5 units at 6.50 #2 The Dark Horse : Hobart Hurricanes One of the highly under-rated teams of the competition which is primarily comprised of the Tasmanian Ryobi Cup players, augmented by a couple of handy international and interstate players these guys are the value prospect of what may be a volatile and unpredictable competition. Key Players :- Phil Jacques – Poached from NSW, this opener has had some success playing for Australia and only recently returning from injury. His form this season so far has been sub-par but he is a sublime stroke-maker and if he returns to his best will be a force to reckon with. Ricky Ponting – Ex-Australian captain and while in the past he has not been a fan of T20, he is taking part in the competition. There is every chance that he will soon be dropped from the Test team and he may end up taking his frustration out in the latter part of the Big Bash competition. Not to be under-estimated at state level. Owais Shah – Under-rated English international with a powerful hitting game and some good recent form playing for the South African Cape Cobras, averaging 77 over his last 4 One-Day innings during November/December. Another experienced T20 player not to be under-estimated. Tim Paine – Unfortunately appears to be ruled out of the Big Bash due to ongoing issues with his finger injury. He will be replaced by Tasmanian Tom Triffit who has some recent batting form. Rana Naveed – Solid Pakistani all-rounder who has experience playing in the Big Bash with success in Australian conditions. Averages 19 with the ball and 21 with the bat at a strike rate of 134. Another very handy, but under-rated international cricketer. Ben Hilfenhaus – Former Australian International swing bowler, has plenty of experience in the shorter formats of cricket and has been bowling well for Tasmania recently, earning a call up to the Prime Ministers IX in November. Generally a good opening and death bowler who is economical and can take wickets. Xavier Doherty – Current Australian ODI spin bowler who has been made captain in the absence of Tim Paine. Good recent form for Australia and probably the form spinner of the Australian domestic season in both Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup. Expect him to improve on his T20 averages. Jason Krejza – The forgotten Australian spinner who was dropped after collecting an 8 wicket haul in India. His T20 record is actually better than Doherty and he is a good wicket taking option in this format. With Doherty these two potentially form the best spin partnership in the competition. Ben Laughlin – New to Tasmania (from Queensland), he has only played 2 Ryobi games this season, but was ultra-impressive in his last game collecting a match winning 6/53 against NSW on December 4. Not to be under-estimated. Michael Hogan – Poached from Western Australia for this competition, Hogan has been the spearhead of the Western Australian pace attack in Sheffield Shield. Not sure how he will go in T20, but he should be dangerous opening the bowling if selected. Summary :- It’s easy to see why the market has under-valued this teams prospects, as there are some question marks over the batting. However, despite the loss of Tasmania’s form batsman Ed Cowan to the 6ers, there is enough class in the batting to get runs if individuals form improves. The real strength of this team is the bowling, particularly the spin twins Doherty & Krejza. On spin friendly tracks this team will be hard to beat and with a solid short-form pace attack they will be able to defend small totals. The teams core is largely the Tasmanian state team, so cohesion within the team will be good and the Tasmanians are currently equal top of the Ryobi Cup competition so are performing well and are much better than their current price. Under-estimate them at your own risk. Staking Advice :- Back Hobart Hurricanes for 3 units at 11.00 #3 The Faders : Brisbane Heat On paper this team looks like one the of strongest and the Queensland state team has opened the Australian Domestic season in fine form, however with player injury, unavailability and a declining form line for Queensland this team looks like one of the poorer value prospects of the Big Bash competition. Key Players :- Daniel Vettori – New Zealand International and potentially one of the best spinners currently in international cricket. Unfortunately he has a hamstring injury and will likely miss the first couple of games. I have also read that he’s only signed for 6 games, so expect he will be leaving the tournament early to play for New Zealand against Zimbabwe in late January – thus I think the Brisbane Heat is unlikely to get good value from this big name signing. Brendon McCullum – New Zealand International and “master blaster” this guy has the potential to destroy bowling attacks. However, he can be a bit of a grub and has no love for Australia so I question whether his heart is really in this. I also expect that he will be heading home to play against Zimbabwe in January, so also won’t be around for the “business end” of the competition. Matthew Hayden – Former Aussie great and opening batsmen. No doubt in his prime he could destroy any bowling attack, but he retired from international cricket years ago and hasn’t really played for over a year. Last appearance in the IPL for the Super Kings yielded an average of just 5.8 runs over his last 7 innings. Expect him to be rusty and he may not be able to return to former glories. His greatest value to Brisbane Heat appears to be his marketing potential and as a spokesperson. James Hopes – Queensland captain and former Australian International. Hopes is a good captain and all-rounder, with good form with his medium pace bowling, but his batting has been well below par this season. Still, he is one of the likely better performers and he likes to lead by example. Dan Christian – Poached from South Australia, this all-rounder is on the rise. He is a poweful hitter and his fast-medium bowling is a handful. He’s in great form and is verging on a call-up to the Australian test team. Indeed this is a risk that if Australia struggles against India in the tests, or face further injuries he may well get a call up and be another quality player lost to the Brisbane Heat at the business end of the competition. Nathan Hauritz – Poached from NSW, this former Australian spinner is returning to domestic cricket after some time in the wilderness. I’m not convinced that his head is in the right place and his recent form is a bit indifferent. I think he is another who is past his best. Alister McDermott – Only recently added to the roster, this up and coming bowler has the pedigree and the form to impress. One of the exciting prospects for the future I expect he will be a handful in the Big Bash and what he lacks in experience he makes up for in talent. Sadly he is one of the few bright spots for this team. Ryan Harris – Quality Australian International bowler who (when fit) is considered the leader of the Aussie bowling attack. Unfortunately he has been struggling with injury for some time and is unlikely to be fit for the 1st game and when he is fit he is likely to be selected for the Test team. Either way he is likely to be unavailable throughout the competition and is taking up space on the roster. Ben Cutting – Up and coming fast bowler who has been a feature of the early season success of the Queensland state team. Has bordered on Australian Test team selection, however has recently succumbed to injury and has been reportedly dropped from the roster. His injury has coincided with the recent Queensland state teams decline. Summary :- There are a number of other “reasonable” state players in this team, such as Ryan Broad, Peter Forest, Chris Lynn and Steve Paulsen, however none of them are in consistently great form and so (like the Queensland state team) the batting is suspect. With Cutting, Harris and Vettori injured, the bowling stocks are also weak. Overall, I think this team has put too much faith in the NZ players and Haydos, whom are all significant risks of letting the team down. They will definitely win some games, probably in the mid-season when they are strongest, but I expect them to fade toward the end of the competition. Staking Advice :- Lay Brisbane Heat for 3 units at 7.00 #4 The Over-Rated : Sydney Thunder Once again, on paper, this team looks like a powerhouse with plenty of star power to distract you from the lack of depth and experience that it will inevitably rely upon when the going gets tough. It is a very unbalanced team which looks like it has been thrown together to make up the desired 2nd Sydney franchise. Key Players :- Chris Gayle – The true “rock star” of international cricket, has become potentially the most recognisable full-time T20 professional. With his powerful hitting Gayle can almost single-handedly win games and he will no doubt win a couple for this team to justify his pay check. However, he is not a great team player, can show poor discipline and often throws his wicket away when the team needs his most and this team will struggle when he does. David Warner – Australian International who, in my book, is one of the next great stars of the new cricket generation. Once considered a T20 specialist who can devastate bowling attacks, he has continued to improve his game and has now been selected to play for the Australian Test team – scoring a test century in only his 2nd game. Sadly for Thunder fans, he is likely to be unavailable due to Test selection and despite organisers who are using Warner in Big Bash promotional build-up, he is unlikely to be taking part in the competition beyond the first 2 games. There is also a back injury concern which may rule him out of the 1st game. Phil Hughes – Out of form Australian Test opener, I was looking forward to him being dropped from the test team and rediscovering his attacking flair in the Big Bash, but he has withdrawn from the competition to attend “Batting Camp”. Usman Khawaja – Another fringe Australian International who has great future potential as a classy stroke-maker. Currently in the Aussie Test team, which means he is unlikely to be available to play for the Thunder beyond the first 2 games unless he is dropped from the Test side. Also has minimal T20 experience of 7 games, averaging only 19. Daniel Smith – Old school NSW power hitter who was thrown a lifeline early in the domestic season after being dumped. Not sure how much he will get to play and he can be a bit “hit and miss”, but if he fires he can do some damage. Ben Dunk – Poached from Queensland (who rely heavily on him) he is also a power hitter and decent wicket keeper. Recent form has been sporadic, but he can do damage when he fires. It will be interesting to see if he opens the innings with Gayle once Warner becomes unavailable and whether that will help take pressure off him, allowing him to perform to his potential. Doug Bollinger – Current Australian ODI player, Doug has good pace and experience in the shorter formats for both opening and death bowling. Unfortunately he is currently nursing a hamstring injury and is likely to miss the first couple of games. If he can get fit, and stay fit, he will be the likely leader of Thunders bowling attack. Fidel Edwards – West Indian International test cricketer who leads their pace attack and can be intimidating. Has lesser experience in the shorter formats of cricket and so a question mark over his suitability for the Big Bash. At times he has been very expensive, particularly in recent tests in India where Sehwag and Gambhir took him to task. Not selected in recent ODIs for West Indies which suggests his short format form is not as good as it should be. Summary :- The rest of the Thunder team is made up of a combination of state players drawn from NSW and interstate. Many with questionable form and credentials. A significant number of younger players without much experience which suggests that NSW is trying to “blood” new players with this franchise. Overall I see an unbalanced team of rock stars and newbies, thrown together with a captain (Warner) who is unlikely to be available and no clear leadership credentials beyond that. I’d expect they could either start the tournament a bit dysfunctional (watch for run-outs) or with a bang if their star power clicks, but their lack of depth should be exposed mid-competition and they will flounder, maybe even fall apart with a collapse in morale toward the end. Staking Advice :- Lay Sydney Thunder for 5 units at 8.00 Final Summary & Advice :- T20 can be a volatile and unpredictable game. Many punters consider betting on an individual T20 match to be the equivalent of tossing a coin, however, over the long run quality teams will prevail as match results average themselves out. The fact that Victoria has won 4 of the previous Big Bash competitions is proof of that. That is why the advised betting strategy is based on the overall tournament rather than individual games. There are 4 teams out of 8 who will make the elimination finals and so this strategy is based on the regular competition games leading up to the elimination finals. Once the regular competition games are over the intention is to “green out” on any of the top 4 teams which show a negative outcome (to remove risk) and spread the profit around from the profitable top 4 teams ahead of the elimination finals. It is not the intention (nor recommendation) to let any of the above bets “ride” through the finals.