A phone call from Brian Lara was the catalyst for Andre Fletcher to burst out of his BBL form slump, but he revealed he may not be available for the finals if the Melbourne Stars progress that far as they also prepare for life without Haris Rauf.
Rauf was named in the Pakistan Test squad for a two-Test of South Africa starting on January 26 and left Melbourne today after bowling just one over in the Stars' thumping win over the Adelaide Strikers at the MCG.
Fletcher also said he may not see the tournament out. He has signed to play in the Abu Dhabi T10 League for the Bangla Tigers, with the 10-day tournament starting on January 28, two days after the Stars' last home and away game and a day prior to the BBL eliminator. The BBL finals run from January 28 to February 6. The Stars have already released Ben Dunk from his contract and he is listed to play for the Qalandars in the T10 competition, which is also his PSL franchise.
Fletcher said he would like to stay in Melbourne if it's possible after receiving tremendous support from the Stars during his lean run of form.
"I signed a T10 deal a few weeks before the BBL so I'll have a think about it, speak to my agent and hear what he says," Fletcher said. "I would love to stay to be honest."
Fletcher was Player of the Match for his stunning 89 not out, having not passed 18 in his first nine BBL innings this season, and having not passed 50 in his last 30 T20 innings dating back to December 2019.
On Wednesday he received a phone call out of the blue from Lara, who is Australia commentating on the BBL for Australian broadcaster Channel Seven, to give him some advice.
"He called me and I was surprised, to be honest," Fletcher said after his match-winning innings. "He was telling me that, looking from the outside, I've been striking the ball cleanly and he just told me to give myself that opportunity. Giving myself that chance and playing each ball on its merits.
"I'm an aggressive player so there's no need to go out there and look to [over] power the ball. To be honest, that's what I did today.
"I've met him before. He's a great guy. I told him over the phone, after what he told me I was like, 'So Brian, now I understand the reason you were so great'.
"He told me, feel free to call him any time I wish to, he's there, he's open for anything and willing to give me advice."
Captain Glenn Maxwell gave Fletcher a warm and long embrace after he came off the ground.
"You could see what it meant to him after the game," Maxwell said. "He was obviously pretty emotional. He got the phone call from the Prince during the week. Just to have that support behind the scenes was really crucial for him. We know how hard he's been working in the nets. He's a great team man as well."
The Stars vaulted back into finals calculations with their huge win over the Strikers and play their last four matches in Melbourne, including three at the MCG, but losing Rauf is a blow to the balance of their side. Maxwell was hopeful that Nathan Coulter-Nile would return from his calf injury soon to bolster their bowling stocks.
"We're equal third but also equal sixth," Maxwell said. "It's nice and tight at the moment. Obviously Haris is a big loss but he gets to play Test cricket for his nation and that's a big achievement. We wish him all the best.
"We've got Coults coming back from injury really soon so it's probably good timing if there is a good time to lose Haris."
Coulter-Nile hasn't played since he damaged his calf on December 26 in the loss to the Sydney Sixers.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne