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Melbourne Stars BBL preview: Maxwell key in push for elusive title

The loss of Jonny Bairstow is a blow, but Nicholas Pooran should provide some early excitement

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Glenn Maxwell celebrates a wicket, Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Stars, BBL 09 final, Sydney, February 8, 2020

Glenn Maxwell celebrates a wicket  •  Getty Images

Coach David Hussey
Squad Hilton Cartwright, Jackson Coleman, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ben Dunk, Andre Fletcher (WI), Seb Gotch, Lewis Hatcher, Clint Hinchliffe, Dilbar Hussain (Pakistan), Zahir Khan (Afg), Nick Larkin, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jono Merlo, Lance Morris, Tom O'Connell, Nicholas Pooran (WI), Will Pucovski, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa
In Lewis Hatcher, Andre Fletcher, Nicholas Pooran, Billy Stanlake (Strikers), Will Pucovski, Zahir Khan (Heat)
Out Peter Handscomb (Hurricanes), Daniel Worrall (Strikers), Haris Rauf, Sandeep Lamichhane (Hurricanes)
Overseas player availability Andre Fletcher (available until Jan 26), Dilbar Hussain (all tournament), Zahir Khan (all tournament pending Afghanistan ODI selection), Nicholas Pooran (first six matches)
Last season: Runner-up
The Stars were the dominant force in the tournament but fell at the final two hurdles again. The loss in the Qualifier at home was particularly harrowing when they were bowled out for just 99 sparking memories of their collapse in the BBL08 final. The Qualifier loss meant they ceded home ground advantage and then had to try and force the running in a rain-affected final at the SCG, only to lose to the Sixers again to finish runner-up for the second straight season.
Bubble impact
The Stars overseas recruitment has been impacted. Haris Rauf, who was a revelation last season is unavailable and has been replaced by Dilbar Hussain who is available all season. Andre Fletcher will be available for most of the tournament up until the playoffs and Nicholas Pooran is available for the first six games. Zahir Khan should be available for most of the tournament unless he is called up for to Afghanistan's ODI series with Ireland in mid-January. The Stars won't be greatly affected in terms of their local players. Will Pucovski is the only local player involved in Australia's Test squad but he is unlikely to be even close to the Stars' first-choice XI.
Player to watch
It's always one name with the Stars. Glenn Maxwell is the biggest in show in the BBL and he still holds the key to the Stars success. Marcus Stoinis will provide stability and runs at the top of the order and Fletcher and Pooran add valuable depth to the batting, but the attack is much thinner than last year. Maxwell is in form after a lean IPL and he can rip games away with the bat. He will also need to provide key overs with the ball. He has done it time and again in the league games, a Maxwell special in a final could win the Stars that elusive title.
Key stat
Last year's finalists and best batting unit have just bolstered their team with a modern T20 power hitter in Nicolas Pooran. Since the start of 2019, Pooran has hit 113 sixes - third most after Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne