Nic’s star refuses to shine

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SOMETIMES in sort, nothing goes right – just ask Melbourne Stars Big Bash acting captain Nic Maddinson, says chief writer RON REED:

SOME SAY Matthew Wade is Australia’s unluckiest cricketer this summer, and they’re not far wrong – the veteran Tasmanian continues to be snubbed by the national selectors in all forms, despite scoring more runs at a better average than almost anyone in the Sheffield Shield.

His form in the Big Bash is pretty handy too, for what that’s worth. He gave the powers that be another sharp reminder at the MCG on Monday night, contributing 41 off 38 balls to an opening partnership of 95 with D’Arcy Short against the Melbourne Stars.  You wouldn’t call it spectacular – one four and one six, the latter off debutant leg-spinner Tom O’Connell’s first nervous offering – but it certainly put the islanders in the box seat to maintain their pace-setting progress under Wade’s astute captaincy. Coming into this match they were the clear leaders of BBL08, with five wins and one defeat. – and they still are.

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The Hurricanes’ 2-185 was always going to be far too much for the Stars depleted outfit, thanks to Short’s magnificent 96 not out off 57 balls – which he followed up by dismissing the dangerous Ben Dunk with his first delivery with the ball. He’s another player unlucky not to be playing at a higher level. Wade has now scored 5 52 85 24 15 9 and 41 and he and Short have teamed up in seven 50-plus partnerships, a BBL record, one ahead of the Brisbane Heat’s Bash Brothers, Brendon McCullum and Chris Lynn.

That left the Stars, one of Wade’s old teams as the other Melbourne side, the Renegades – stranded at the bottom of the ladder, where they finished last year.

And if we’re talking unlucky cricketers … hello, Nic Maddinson.

Before this match, the 27 year old New South Welshman must have been looking for a black cat to kick. In fact, he might have been doing that for a while, perhaps back to the summer of 2016-17. That’s when he realised every young cricketer’s dream, presented with his baggy green cap against South Africa.

To say the least, that didn’t go quite according to plan. He started with a duck, cleaned up by what he has described as an “unplayable” 150kph thunderbolt from one of the world’s best young fast bowlers, Kagiso Rabada.  That can happen to anyone and nobody gets dropped on the basis of an unsuccessful debut. Maddinson got two more games, one against the Proteas and one against Pakistan, and was then relieved of his duties with a total of 27 runs at 6.75, which now seems certain to be his final resting place in Test cricket history.

Before he knew it, NSW had discarded him, too. He moved to Victoria without a contract and immediately thought his luck had changed when he smashed a big century against Western Australia, only to break his arm when hit by a short ball in his next innings.

He didn’t return until the Stars’ sixth match, his first for the franchise, and found himself acting captain in place of Glenn Maxwell, and with a line-up suddenly missing five of its best players. Talk about drawing the short straw! Not surprisingly, the Stars lost their next two matches and the captain was in the horrors himself, scoring two and five against the Scorchers and the Strikers.

Adding to his troubles, he was fingered for allowing his team to bowl its overs too slowly against the Strikers, meaning he was one third of the way to being suspended for a match if that happened twice more.

Could things get any worse?

Well, one thing was for sure – if the Stars were going to have any chance of returning to the winning list, Maddinson’s input had to change drastically. He arrived at the crease at 2-40 after five overs with the ask still almost 10 an over, and wasted no time getting moving with a square cut for four second ball. But that was as far as it went. He was plumb lbw to veteran spinner Johan Botha for 6 off seven balls, leaving him with 13 runs for the campaign at the disastrous average of 4.2, even worse than his Test embarrassment. If he wasn’t captain, he would be dropped – and probably will be when Maxwell and Peter Handscomb return, although it might all be too little too late by then.

Maddinson watched his team nosedive to a third successive defeat under his leadership and slump to the bottom of the ladder, which is where they finished last year.

This sorry capitulation was watched by only 20,188 people. The erstwhile glamour club of the competition is in free-fall for attendance, 46,418  for the derby against the renegades on new Year’s Day down to 25,300 against the Scorchers and now this. The Stars made a big deal before this game about attracting their millionth spectator in the eight years the Bash has been going. They’ll be a lot longer getting their second million.

This might be starting to sound like a broken record, but the BBL is definitely losing traction among both live and TV viewers, and given how widespread opinion is that it is harming Test cricket, the day is surely coming when Cricket Australia is going to have to have a good hard look at the dynamics of this fading money-spinner.

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Author: Ron Reed

RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.

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