Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo
Victoria have called on Ross Taylor, the energetic New Zealand batsman, as a last-minute overseas replacement for the domestic Twenty20 tournament that begins at the Gabba on Monday. The Bushrangers lost Sohail Tanvir to a knee injury this week and Taylor's signature was secured just before the Christmas Eve deadline.
However, Taylor is only available for the first group game against Queensland and the preliminary final - if his side makes it that far. Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, has been picked up by the Bulls on a similar deal, although he won't be playing in Brisbane on Monday. The already powerful Victoria have Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies allrounder, on their books as they aim for a place in the final, which will secure a spot in next year's lucrative Champions League Twenty20 in India.
"Both Ross and Dwayne will add an enormous amount, in terms of ability and excitement," Victoria's chief executive Tony Dodemaide said. "Each of them can hit a long ball, have a presence in the field and are sure to engage the fans. Their extensive international experience will be of great benefit to some of our younger guys as well."
The bowler Clint McKay is back with the side after making his Test debut last week in Perth while Dirk Nannes is returning after a long-running hamstring injury. The Bushrangers were second in the tournament last year, ending their sequence of three consecutive victories.
Queensland suffered a setback when the wicketkeeper Chris Hartley was ruled out for two games with a thumb injury, allowing the understudy Ben Dunk a promotion. Andrew Symonds, who no longer plays first-class cricket, is the state's A-list Twenty20 player while Vettori will be available for a group match later in the tournament, and the preliminary final if they repeat their performance of last year.
Two Australian teams will qualify for the Champions League and it is the reason why this tournament is being treated so seriously. There has been an influx of overseas players for the event, with two allowed per team, as the states eye the big pay cheques if they can reach the final. New South Wales won last year and went on to take the Champions League in October, returning home with US$2.5m in prize-money.
The Blues will look to their heavy hitters at the top of the order, where they have David Warner, Phillip Hughes and Phil Jaques, as they attempt to re-qualify for the Indian adventure. After the main men come the strong men, with Steven Smith and Ben Rohrer capable of blasting away in the middle.
With such a stunning line-up the Blues don't really need an overseas player, but they have called on the West Indian Dwayne Smith to boost their all-round qualities. The Blues travel to Hobart on Wednesday to face Tasmania in their opening game.
Tasmania have had no luck with their international signings. Lasith Malinga was ruled out due to Sri Lanka's added international commitments while England's Dimitri Mascarenhas pulled out last week due to a knee injury that requires surgery. However, they picked up Rana Naved-ul-Hasan at the last minute and he will link up with George Bailey, Brett Geeves and Tim Paine.
Chris Gayle will have his first fixture on Tuesday when Western Australia play South Australia in Perth. The Warriors have a 13-man squad that includes Luke Pomersbach, who was suspended following a drink-driving, sand-dune hiding escapade in the off-season which led to a court appearance.
Adam Voges captains the team and the side's big-hitting ability excites the coach Tom Moody. "We have a significant batting line-up full of players that are well-suited to Twenty20, such as Shaun Marsh, Luke Pomersbach, Theo Doropoulos, Mitch Marsh, and Adam Voges," Moody said. "Throw Chris Gayle into that mix, and it is an exciting prospect."
South Australia have some enviable signings, with Kieron Pollard the most wanted man in the competition, while Shahid Afridi is another of the most brutal hitters in the game. The Redbacks will also have the chance to see Shaun Tait operate over consecutive games as the limited-overs specialist faces his most important month of the year.
Victoria squad Rob Quiney, Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Ross Taylor, Cameron White (capt), Dwayne Bravo, Aaron Finch, Andrew McDonald, Matthew Wade (wk), John Hastings, Jon Holland, Clint McKay, Dirk Nannes, James Pattinson.
Queensland squad James Hopes, Nathan Reardon, Lee Carseldine, Andrew Symonds, Craig Philipson, Glen Batticciotto, Chris Simpson (capt), Ben Dunk (wk), Chris Hartley (wk), Ryan Harris, Ben Laughlin, Ben Cutting, Alister McDermott, Nathan Rimmington.
New South Wales squad David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Phillip Jaques, Usman Khawaja, Ben Rohrer, Moises Henriques (capt), Dwayne Smith, Daniel Smith (wk), Steven Smith, Simon Keen, Grant Lambert, Dominic Thornely, Stephen O'Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Aaron Bird, Josh Hazlewood.
Western Australia squad Shaun Marsh, Chris Gayle, Adam Voges (capt), Mitchell Marsh, Luke Pomersbach, Luke Ronchi (wk), David Bandy, Theo Doropoulos, Ashley Noffke, Aaron Heal, Michael Hogan, Brad Knowles, Nathan Coulter-Nile.
South Australia squad Tom Cooper, Daniel Harris, Cameron Borgas, Mark Cosgrove, Shahid Afridi, Kieron Pollard, Aaron O'Brien, Graham Manou (capt, wk), Dan Christian, Mark Cleary, Jake Haberfield, Shaun Tait.
Tasmania squad Tim Paine (wk), Ed Cowan, Rhett Lockyear, Michael Dighton, George Bailey (capt), Travis Birt, Alex Doolan, Luke Butterworth, John Rogers, Jeremy Smith, James Faulkner, Jason Krejza, Brendan Drew, Brett Geeves, Gerard Denton, Xavier Doherty, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.
New South Wales
Twenty20 Big Bash
Australian Domestic Season