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Lisa Sthalekar: Sydney Sixers have fallen behind T20 game plan in WBBL

The club has finished fifth in the last two WBBL seasons which has already led to some changes

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry have been a formidable opening pair but is time for something new?  •  Getty Images

Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry have been a formidable opening pair but is time for something new?  •  Getty Images

Lisa Sthalekar, the newly appointed list manager for Sydney Sixers, believes the WBBL side have not kept up with the evolution of the T20 game as the club look to rebound from two disappointing seasons.
The Sixers, who are currently searching for a new head coach after Ben Sawyer moved full-time to the Australia set-up, have finished fifth in the last two seasons to miss out on finals having previously been back-to-back champions and runner's up on two other occasions.
Significant moves had been made before Sthalekar's new role was confirmed with the club not re-signing South Africa duo Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk while India opener Shafali Verma is expected to be one of their new overseas players.
The Sixers' game plan has been based around Alyssa Healy leading the scoring rate with Ellyse Perry seen as an anchor through an innings, but that could be one of the elements that changes this season with Verma a logical opening partner for Healy if the deal is confirmed.
"I think the issue was that we were really successful at the start and the formula that we put in place, and I was one of the players involved in the first few years, that was how we decided to play cricket," Sthalekar told reporters. "The game changed and I don't think the Sixers necessarily adapted towards the change of the T20 format and how it was being played.
"I know they did a thorough review after the recent WBBL season and things have already been set in motion prior to me coming on board. I think you'll see a different style of game the Sixers will play this season."
Healy and Perry were far and away the Sixers' most prolific batters last season. Healy made 402 runs with a strike-rate of 161.44 but while Perry, who was making her way back from a severe hamstring injury, made 390 runs at an average of 48.75 her strike-rate was under a run-a-ball.
Meanwhile, Ash Gardner, one of the most destructive batters in the game, only faced 69 balls during the season although that was partly due to suffering another concussion.
"I'm talking about trying to find the perfect position for each of the players in their role," Sthalekar said. "We've had the luxury of having Alyssa Healy at the top and Ellyse Perry being that stable person throughout the innings, but is it an opportunity for two players to go hard at the top?
"Think that's something the Sixers will look at for this coming season. Where does an Ash Gardner fit, where does an Erin Burns fit? How do we get the best out of them? Is there an opportunity to change it based on the current situation of the match?"
Verma is one of a number of India players expected to join the league with the advantage of them already being in the country for the multi-format series against Australia so having completed their two weeks quarantine.
With the continued need to quarantine and the Australian government reducing arrival caps there could yet be challenges getting overseas players in for both the WBBL and BBL with New Zealand a potential source of talent for the former talent due to the travel bubble.
"It's very hard to plan and I think most clubs will have to try to have a Plan B and C," Sthalekar said. "It helps that they [India] are in the country and have already done the two weeks quarantine. We've got to take that into consideration, players doing that hard two weeks is tough…so the fact India will be out here does lead to probably a lot of the clubs trying to target the Indian players."
However, Alex Blackwell, the list manager for Sydney Thunder's WBBL side who are the defending champions, believes depth of local talent is as important as overseas players.
The Thunder will need at least two new overseas signings with Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont unavailable due to England's tour of Pakistan in October.
"It's not just about the overseas players, one of the strengths of Sydney Thunder is they've developed and grown players from New South Wales and from country areas," she said. "The core of the WBBL squad is fairly stable with a great mix of young players coming through who have had really good opportunity under pressure to show just how good they are.
"The overseas players are so important to get the mix right but think they are the icing on the cake for what is a wonderful squad which includes some of our most exciting local players."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo