So far, BBL 2018-19 has been an interesting spectacle. We have seen a number of uneven matches where sides have been knocked-over for a paltry total.
Amidst the glitz and the glamour, the usual faces have attracted our attention.
D'Arcy Short has destroyed all comers. Matty Wade has blitzed the competition alongside him. Shane Watson has clubbed a ton, while the ever-entertaining Rashid Khan has bedazzled spectators.
Callum Ferguson has reminded us why he was such a promising prospect in his younger years. Jos Buttler has continued to destroy bowling attacks, at least until national team duties took him from the competition.
But for each team, we have observed a number of players who have played vital supporting acts. Without their generally unnoticed contributions, their sides would be in a much worse position than they are currently.
But who are these unsung heroes that have kept their teams in the fight?
In this slideshow, I will choose what I call the 'Unsung Heroes' XI.
These are the players whose performance this season has exceeded expectations.
They may be players who always perform in their given role. They may be players who have had standout seasons in teams where they have been outshone. They could be young players who have previously struggled and are suffering from this reputation.
Every effort has been made to balance the strike rates and run-scoring ability to create a side that can consolidate when it needs to or accelerate when the platform has been built. The aim is to have five front-line batsmen, three all-rounders, and six bowling options. This provides the team with a degree of flexibility with both batting and bowling structures.
Further, there may be players who do not qualify as the next best batsman, bowler, or all-rounder, but who is a good fit for the team itself.
This could because they have a history of performing the tasks set for them in situations that matter. It could also be because they complement the existing batting or bowling lineup, or provide an element of playing diversity that wouldn't otherwise exist.
The criteria are as follows:
- There must be one player from each team.
- Three teams will have 2 players each in this selection.
- This is a playing XI. While there may be a better under-appreciated batsman, bowler, or all-rounder, I have done my best to make this a well-balanced team.
So let's begin.
Ben Dunk (WK) (Melbourne Stars)
Ben Dunk has revitalised his form in the latter half of this season.
Outshone by the Stars' superstars, the wicket-keeper batsman struggled for form during the early part of the season but has since returned to help guide his side to a mid-year resurgence.
He escapes the limelight standing next to the big names such as Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb, but he has been a vital contributor to the Stars' recent run of form.
Dunk has scored 259 runs in 11 matches. He possesses an average of 25.90 and a strike rate of 116.
His standout moments so far this season have been a 62 off 47 balls in the Stars' win over the Scorchers, and his 72* off 53 balls against the Strikers, smashing nine boundaries.
His ability to take the gloves also assists his selection.
Sam Harper (Melbourne Renegades)
The young Renegades wicket-keeper has impressed in his first BBL season.
He plays with flair, he plays with dare and backs himself to use his aggressive and innovative skill-set to help his side put runs on the board. When he gets going, the Renegades put them on quickly.
The young man has a highest score of 56*, whilst also contributing some valuable quick-fire 30-odds.
His aggressive intent helps to take some pressure off of the Renegades' marquee players, such as Aaron Finch. He has shown a penchant for unorthodox stroke-making but has excelled in this role. Here's hoping we see more of him this season.
Harper has scored 279 runs at 23.25, with a strike rate of 134. This feat sees him included as one of our opening batsmen.