Ben Dunk's search for star quality

Ben Dunk takes a wild one Getty Images

Ben Dunk is bowling the first over of the game. His bowling action looks like an eager club man trying to prove in the nets he should bowl in matches. But his nude nut around-the-wicket offspin somehow beats the bat of D'Arcy Short taking him lbw. Last year it was Short who replaced Dunk for the Hurricanes, even though Dunk was the best opener in the BBL.

Dunk didn't come to Melbourne straight from Hobart, he went to Adelaide first and had the best season of his life. So Dunk, twice the leading run scorer in the BBL, has played at three clubs in three seasons, and almost no one has mentioned it.

When AFL star Dustin Martin was thinking about leaving the Richmond Tigers, Melbourne newspapers had to send out for emergency ink and paper for the extra columns they wrote about him. Talkback radio was inundated with calls and experts across the media, and social media analysed every single thing he did, or didn't do. Martin didn't even leave his team.

Whereas when Dunk moved to Melbourne there was almost no speculation, and most of the reports written were based on the press release after he'd been signed. In almost all the articles on this big signing, they also mentioned that Jackson Coleman had been added to the list. Dunk had no hype, no buzz, and his press release also inspired news about a player no one knows.

There are a few reasons for this. Outside the actual matches and the odd incredible innings, catch or six, there is no media around the Big Bash. CA often pays for journalists to travel to games, perhaps fearful that media companies wouldn't pay themselves. And outside of the season, there's almost no talk of the league.

"Dunk either makes a lot of runs, or he makes no runs at all"

But Dunk is also a weird case. His power was often talked about, but he struggled to get opportunities in Queensland, so he moved to the Hurricanes. And then in 2013-14, he scored 395 runs at 43 striking at 145. He hit 48 boundaries. He was a star, and played CPL, IPL and for Australia on the back of it. It proved to be more than what he would score in the next two years combined.

Dunk has played in six BBL seasons: in two of them he has 795 runs, in the other four he has 500 runs combined. Dunk either makes a lot of runs, or he makes no runs at all. While it's not completely unknown for T20 payers, Dunk is an extreme example. This year, when the Stars hoped they were one signing from a title (and there weren't many big players available), they gave Dunk a two-year deal.

In one game against the Renegades Dunk made 47 in one innings; that's 40% of his season tally.

That year was the opposite of last season. Dunk made 364 runs, averaging 52 while hitting at 162 with 51 boundaries. He was even better than his breakout season. His true strike-rate was an unbelievable +2.2 runs an over.

According to stats provided by Mainuddin Ahmad Jonas, he was worth 14 runs per match more than a standard BBL player. Dunk performed 47% better than the average batsman. He was one and a half players for the Strikers.

Today he looked like a man who knew he could have been dropped, in the last game of the year, and just went for it.

Dunk drops down to one knee, and slog-sweeps Clive Rose into the crowd. Then sweeps another for a four. When Tymal Mills bowls him length in at the stumps, he swings himself almost off his feet but smashes the ball into the crowd. And then a slower ball is near his pads he deftly leg glances through a gap and takes another four.

Dunk races to 30 from 20, crushes the Powerplay overs, doing what the Stars paid him for. It is the third time this season he has made double figures.

His average this year is 11.50, he hits at 110 and every over he is in the middle his true strike-rate says he costs the Stars -1.8 runs. He was 41% worse than an average batsman. In the space of one season, the BBL's best hitter has inverted his numbers and become one of the worst players in the league. The Stars recruited a player and a half; they got half a player.

"This is part of the problem for the BBL as a competition; the games come, the games go; there's no industry around them"

Even as bad as he's been, there's been no huge calls for his sacking, and outside individual failings, no real talk of him at all. This is part of the problem for the BBL as a competition; the games come, the games go; there's no industry around them. If a huge AFL recruit came to Melbourne and failed like this, it would be the story of the season. Dunk's failure, even the Star's failure, is almost forgotten as it happens.

The lack of outrage, of fan bile, of noise, is the problem. Neither will have to front up for another ten months, and you wonder how much we'll hear about either before that happens.

It's D'Arcy Short who takes Dunk's wicket. It's a horrible ball, a half tracker, and Dunk tries to hit it out of the stadium and instead it floats up to short third man. Short is the best opener in the BBL this year.