The winless Melbourne Renegades have not given up on their BBL title defence just yet, with stand-in captain Dan Christian believing that the fifth spot in the revamped finals series is still within reach with just seven games left.
The Renegades have lost their first seven matches to sit last on the BBL table. Every other side has won at least three matches so far this season. They face the BBL leaders, the Melbourne Stars, in the second local derby of the season on Friday night at Marvel Stadium.
Christian, who will stand in as captain while Aaron Finch is in India with the Australia one-day side, was adamant the Renegades season is still alive despite the desperate situation.
"We probably think that six wins might be able squeeze into that 5th spot," Christian said. "Hopefully a few results go your way and a good net run-rate. We certainly haven't given up the season at all. If we can scratch our way towards the back end of the season you never know."
He was at a loss to explain the Renegades woeful season-to-date.
"We've been talking about it a lot," Christian said. "Unfortunately it's been one or two overs each game that just haven't quite gone the right way. We've been doing lots and lots of good things.
"It's been tough. But that's the nature of T20. You've got those one or two overs here and there where things, unfortunately, don't go your way. We'd love to be winning of course. But all we can do is keep training well and keep trying to do things right on the field and hopefully turn things around."
He refused to blame the coaching disruption just prior to the tournament as a reason for their form slump. Michael Klinger was appointed less than a month out from the BBL season, starting after Andrew McDonald departed to join the Australian team.
"No I don't think that's had an impact at all having Maxy Klinger in," Christian said. "He's done a fantastic job. He's obviously been doing his best. It's been difficult for us as well to not be able to get him that first win given it's his first coaching job. He's been really thorough. It's certainly not as a result of the coaching staff."
Christian did identify that there was a need for the top order to covert their starts into bigger scores. Only one Renegades player, Sam Harper, has passed 70 this season despite six half-centuries being scored. Ironically, they scored just three half-centuries in their entire title-winning season with no player reaching 60.
"Every successful T20 team, whether it's over a season or just in a game, you generally have someone that gets 70-80 in that top order that bats all the way through," Christian said. "Sam Harper did that really well the other night, got 73 and got us to a period where we could start really cashing in at the back end so we were able to do that, so that was nice. But that's really been the first time we've had someone get a score that high this year."
Shaun Marsh will open in Finch's absence with Christian expecting a big score from him soon.
"Shaun Marsh will get to go back to the top, which is nice for him," Christian said. "That's where he's had most of his success. (He's) due to get some. He's been fantastic, hitting the ball really well, but just hasn't been able to get that 80-odd. We're not far away."
The Renegades batsmen are preparing for Pakistan sensation Haris Rauf, who has lit up the BBL with some stunning performances, including a hat-trick against the Sydney Thunder.
"He's been really impressive hasn't he," Christian said. "He's bowling fast, he's swinging the new ball and he's getting some reverse at the end. I came across him in the PSL early last year and it's really exciting to see him come out and do so well.
"He's got a short run-up. He's quite slingy and as the speed guns are saying he's bowling 150kph, so he's obviously a bit of a handful. I'm sure the guys have been looking at footage for those that haven't faced him and hopefully we can get on top of him."