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News

Lanning 'disappointed' and 'frustrated' at Sciver-Brunt's likely WBBL signing

Melbourne Stars are fuming as Sciver-Brunt is set to sign with Perth Scorchers despite not nominating for the draft where she would have been a Stars retention pick

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
17-Oct-2023
Melbourne Stars captain Meg Lanning says she is "pretty disappointed" and "frustrated" at Nat Sciver-Brunt's imminent WBBL signing with Perth Scorchers after the England star did not make herself available in the overseas draft where she would have been a retention pick for Stars.
Sciver-Brunt did not nominate for either September's inaugural WBBL overseas draft or via the WBBL's unique overseas direct nomination category in order to play in the competition this year. Under league rules, it was understood that if a player had not nominated for the draft or as a direct signing then they could not feature.
Players who missed out on being drafted initially can be signed as an overseas replacement player, as has been the case with several players including England's Sarah Glenn at Brisbane Heat and Sri Lanka's Chamari Athapaththu at Sydney Thunder.
Sciver-Brunt, 31, would have been highly sought-after at the draft as one of the world's premier allrounders and has played at both Scorchers and Stars previously. Her last stint was with Stars in 2020 where she helped them reach the final, and that would have made her eligible to be retained by Stars at the draft via a retention pick. However, she did not nominate as it was understood she would use the WBBL period to rest due to a knee injury. Stars instead drafted England duo Alice Capsey and Maia Bouchier and also directly signed England batter Sophia Dunkley to fill their three overseas spots.
Scorchers drafted Danni Wyatt with their second pick but she later withdrew from the WBBL entirely citing fatigue, leaving Scorchers with a huge hole to fill just weeks out from the tournament starting.
When Sciver-Brunt suddenly became available to all clubs for the second half of the WBBL Scorchers had the salary cap space to sign her, although the deal is still to be finalised.
"[We're] pretty disappointed actually," Lanning said. "She's obviously one of the best players in the world and you want the best players playing in the competition. But she sort of made herself unavailable initially.
"All the players of her calibre went through the draft or the pre-signing, and I guess she didn't nominate for that.
"As a club, as the Stars, I certainly feel like we didn't get the chance to exercise our retention rights that we would have had for her had she nominated for the draft instead of coming in this way.
"Not only does that impact us this year, but moving forward as well now because Perth have retention rights to her. It's frustrating because I think that the goalposts seem to shift a little bit and we didn't get a chance to get access to her.
"It's disappointing, but I guess that's the way it goes, and we look forward to coming up against Perth and playing well against her and the team."

All the rules have been followed

There was precedence in the men's BBL last year of an overseas player being signed and playing in the competition despite not nominating for the draft. New Zealand's Martin Guptill initially didn't nominate for the BBL overseas draft due to his New Zealand central contract but he was released from that deal in November 2022, after the BBL draft had taken place.
"If there is going to be a draft, then you probably want to make sure that it sort of happens how you plan it to and I'm not sure it's happened in this case."
Meg Lanning
Melbourne Renegades had drafted Liam Livingstone but lost him to international duty and they were able to sign Guptill as a replacement.
Head of the Big Bash Leagues, Alistair Dobson, said Sciver-Brunt's case was similar in that she was initially not made available by the ECB due to her knee issue before an improvement in her fitness meant she could play in the WBBL.
"There are provisions in the contracting rules for players to become available outside the draft or after the draft should they be able to demonstrate a material change in circumstance," Dobson told ESPNcricinfo.
"Ultimately Nat's availability changed, due to what was described to us as an accelerated progression in her fitness following the injury that she had during the English summer, and through correspondence with the ECB, they confirmed that they were now prepared to release Nat to play in the WBBL, whereas previously they weren't in a position to do that.
"We understand the Stars would be disappointed in the fact that they haven't been able to retain Nat in the draft. But they also understand that those rules are in place and have provided feedback and we will continue to work with all our clubs on that."
Lanning was positive about the overseas draft concept in the WBBL but she was firm in her belief that the rules shouldn't change in the aftermath, despite the WBBL having the provision in place prior to the draft.
"I think the [draft] concept is good," Lanning said. "I think it does spread the internationals, and the really good internationals, across different teams and created some media and some talk and clubs had to really strategize and come up with their different plans along the way.
"I think that was a good thing. Whether that's what we use going forward I'm not really sure. But if there is going to be a draft, then you probably want to make sure that it sort of happens how you plan it to and I'm not sure it's happened in this case."

Lanning says WBBL should be cut

Lanning was also strong on the fact that the WBBL should be shortened to a 10-game tournament in line with the men's BBL among growing sentiment throughout the female players that the 14-game version is too long.
"I think it should be 10 games, that's just my personal opinion," Lanning said. "There's obviously a lot of other things that go into it that I probably don't understand and as players, we probably don't get across as much as maybe other people do. I think that would create a really good quality contest. I think 14 games is quite long and there seems to be a bit of a lull for most teams at some point in the season.
"It could maybe make it a little bit more enticing for the internationals to come and stay part of it for the whole time as well.
"It's an interesting discussion actually because I think a lot of people's first reaction is if you go to less games you're sort of cutting back and it's going backwards. But for me, it's the opposite. I think it actually would create a really good quality competition. There's no room for error I guess in terms of playing and you attract the best players and the games are better to watch and better to play in."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo