BBL draft uncertainty leaves Greg Shipperd ‘nervous’ as he plans Sydney Sixers hat-trick quest

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The coach hopes to be able to bring James Vince back but does not expect to see much of the Australian players

Sydney Sixers coach Greg Shipperd is not in favour of the proposed BBL draft for overseas players and admitted the uncertainty over how it could work has added a layer of complexity to planning for next year’s competition where the club will aim for a hat-trick of titles.

Plans for a player draft were put on hold last year due to the pandemic but it is expected to be added to the tournament for this season although Shipperd, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Sixers on Thursday, said details were still thin on the ground.

The Sixers have Tom Curran locked in as part of a three-year deal (he sat out last season due the complexity of traveling during Covid-19) and they are hopeful of having James Vince return after he scored 537 runs at 38.35 in last season’s campaign.

“I know there’s been meetings going on…but there’s been no finality and no crystallisation of any position that I’m aware of at the moment,” Shipperd said. “We’re hanging on the edge trying to understand if there is a draft or not, whether there’s two or three international players, how many domestic players, any rule changes. All of those things are being juggled behind the scenes but none of them have consolidated to the point where we can start to strategise around that.

“My personal preference is to go out and source your players as we’ve done in the past, but I’m not sure if that position is universally held across other coaches or franchises. I like to fit the people I source to the people and combinations and personalities in our group and be really specific around that.

“That’s served us very, very well and a draft takes a bit of that preparedness out of play. I’d be a little bit nervous about how that all unfolds and I hope that those deliberating around whether or not it does go ahead canvas all possibilities around how you can make the media attention around the draft…by proposing an alternative method.”

Should the draft come into being, one element that has been proposed is a system that allows clubs to retain overseas players they have had lengthy associates with such as Rashid Khan at Adelaide Strikers. That could help the Sixers keep Vince with Shipperd clear that club loyalty and keeping his squad together is a high priority.

“I like to provide stability within my groups and that’s why we signed Tom Curran straightaway once we saw the quality of him as a young player, a young man and young leader within our group – we wanted him for a long-term,” he said. “James Vince has hit that zone as well so I would be disappointed if, potentially, we missed the opportunity to have both of those players in our franchise this year because of the quirk on the draft.

“Conversations have been had but our squad is going to look very similar from a domestic point of view. I’m a big believer in, as best as we can, giving this group that has achieved so much in the last two years a strong crack at a third opportunity. Some would say that’s a big risk but there’s a lot of faith in the group from our coaching staff that they’re good enough to do it again.”

Greg Shipperd is hopeful of having James Vince return for another season  Getty Images

With the men’s Ashes series running until January 18 then a limited-overs visit by New Zealand starting at the end of that month, Shipperd is not expecting to see much, if anything, of those involved in the national squads.

Last season Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc were contracted but did not play a match due to the restrictions of moving between bubbles, with Starc later agreeing not to take part in the final so as not to disrupt a successful team. In a testament to the group put together by Shipperd, Moises Henriques and Sean Abbott were also absent for a large part of the regular season. The previous summer Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Steven Smith all appeared in the latter stages of the tournament.

“This year I think it’s probably going to be the worst year for availability for our international players, given where we predict the tournament will be played with a significant Ashes series,” Shipperd said. “I’m tipping those big name international players are unlikely to be available for us which is again just a problem that confronts us every season. And it’s a difficult problem to ever solve given that the international programme is the one that takes priority.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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