T20 is about resources. You have probably heard that already. It is one of cricket's buzzwords, along with units and data.
The resources that are available to you on the field first have to be obtained off it. That brings us to a Big Bash League game from last season where Hamish Kingston took 1 for 23 in two overs at Adelaide Oval, playing for the Strikers. You probably don't remember him, or haven't heard of him, or are wondering why on earth he would even be mentioned right now. Kingston is now a Hobart Hurricanes player. The player he was traded for is Ben Dunk. It was only the second trade ever in the Big Bash.
Kingston is a 26-year-old journeyman cricketer, who, before this season, had played 23 top-level matches - nine first-class, 13 List A and that one T20 where he only got two overs. In the world of professional cricket, he is yet to make his mark, although his death bowling has been impressive at times.
In Dunk's first game for the Adelaide Strikers, he made 85 from 43 balls in a chase of 207. There were eight fours, five sixes, and, by the time he was out, the required run rate had dropped from 10.6 to 8.6. It should have been enough to win the match, but a horrid innings from Travis Head and good cricket from the Brisbane Heat meant that the Strikers conceded the game.
But that is what Dunk can do - destroy. And no one knows that more than the home crowd in Hobart. In 12 BBL innings before tonight at Bellerive Oval, he had 368 runs and a highest score of 96. My taxi driver was talking about Dunk; there was a kid in the crowd with a hand-made Dunk shirt, and Channel 10 made Roz Kelly trot out to the middle and "interview" Dunk as he walked onto the ground. It was quite clear that Dunk had made quite the impression on the local fans, and that his trade left them perplexed.
And you can see why, when Dunk gets in, his name is basically an onomatopoeia warning for what he does. His shoulders have a Wally Hammond cricket masculinity about them. He doesn't hit the ball, he whacks and bashes. It isn't about fine margins; it's about tremendous impact. The Hobart fans know it well; they see it when he gets a short ball and crushes it through extra cover to start his attack.
The crowd makes a noise that seems to be the sound of 16,000 people saying what my taxi driver said: "Why'd they get rid of him?" And that before Simon Milenko enters his vision and he mis-hits a small six, properly hits a massive six, eases one through the offside and then bashes one through the offside. Six, six, dot, four, four, before Milenko recovers and clean bowls him. Dunk's first trip back to Hobart has 31 runs come from 17 balls.
Kingston never bowled to Dunk. In fact, he never bowled to anyone; he was dropped for this match.
This season, Kingston has played three matches for Hobart. His first game was handy - he made 12 off six and took 2 for 20 off three overs, including the wicket of Brad Haddin. In his second match, he was taken for 37 off three overs. And in his third, he made 17 off 10, but went for 22 off his one over after running into Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum. Kingston is a change-up bowler, you can tell he is a smart cricketer, and his batting makes him handy.
But the reason given for his trade with Dunk was to bolster Hurricanes' death bowling. Andrew Dykes, Hurricanes' cricket manager, told Cricket Australia's website: "Hamish is a wonderful death bowler who performed really well at the most recent Matador Cup." In three games, Kingston has not bowled a single over in the last four of the innings. He might have against the Melbourne Stars, but only two death overs were required in that match, and he was going at over 12, so they might not have used him.
So there are other reasons this trade happened. One is that Dunk and Hobart were perhaps a bit over each other. Dunk had a poor season last year. He only made 113 runs, and did so at a poor strike rate; both parties might have wanted to move on. He also didn't keep wicket in most matches for the Hurricanes - last season, he kept in only two matches, including his final match for them - so he isn't an allrounder there, making him more valuable to other teams. Hurricanes were probably looking for more space in their salary cap; Stuart Broad wouldn't be a cheap signing. And, importantly, Kingston is a local Tassie boy.
So the trade was made, a straight swap, Dunk for Kingston. This is how the Strikers general manager Bronwyn Klei described it to Cricket Australia's website: "To sign a previous Australian T20 representative and a former player of the tournament is really exciting for our fans, and gives our squad great depth and an injection of experience." It must have been hard for her to say at all even as she was so clearly doing cartwheels.
Anyone who has ever followed a sport involving trades knows that there is rarely a perfect trade where both teams win. But Hobart have traded away a player who in 2013-14 was the best Big Bash player, an Australian representative, a fan favourite, a power hitter, and an allrounder. And they've traded him for a bloke with no experience at this level at all, a bloke who has been floating around cricket for years and is only three years younger than Dunk. With all due respect to what Kingston may be able to do, his death-bowling potential, his handiness with the bat, and what the Hurricanes may be able to get out of him that the Strikers never were able to, this is a stinker.
There are reasons: the trade system of the Big Bash doesn't have draft picks to trade with, nor are there other options for sweetening a deal when a player is just clearly better than another player. The player lists aren't huge, and this is largely an exhibition tournament in the way it is run, rather than the more professional versions of T20 sport or how most major sports operate. But that doesn't excuse the Hurricanes, as almost nothing can.
You don't trade an automatic starter, a power player, an impact player, a game-winner, a tournament boss, for some bloke because he's a local lad. Even if your salary cap is a bit jammed or you think the bigger-named player has been worked out. You get three Hamish Kingstons, a year's worth of gold class cinema tickets for the entire team and a year's supply of sports drinks, at least, before you trade. You ask for a young kid who the Strikers are not sure about, but you think may do well in the Hurricanes. Or first dip at their rookie list. You ask for a veteran benchwarmer who can do a job if injuries deplete your fast bowlers. You try and orchestrate a three-way trade, a four-way trade, an entire league trade if need be. You do anything to make the trade one where you haven't just given up a match-winner for nothing more than the potential of a 26-year-old with one game under his belt.
Roz Kelly reported that Hurricanes coach Damien Wright had said that part of the reason they traded Dunk was that they wanted a "less predictable" opening partnership. Today, their opening partnership won the game, after Dunk had threatened to do the same. And it was because of the Dunk trade and salary cap shuffle that allowed for D'Arcy Short to play for Tasmania. Also Dunk's keeping in this game was weak, he gave up seven byes in one over, and helped the Hurricanes scoot away early. Despite the fact that he outscored his meagre total from last year in only three games, you can argue that the Hurricanes were right to trade Dunk based on his last two years, and the fact that they already have a better keeper. But you cannot argue, in any way, that they made a good trade for Dunk.
You get the most resources you can for Dunk, because T20 is about resources. And even if it wasn't, you are trying to build the best team you can, and he can help you do that. You want to sell your resources for what they are worth, not for a single locally sourced magic bean. Today, the Hurricanes won because they used their resources on the field much better as a team. If they want to continue to do that, they have to be smarter off the field.