Ben Jones casts his eye over who needs what in Sunday’s draft.
Draft Position: 1st
Red Ball Player: Joe Root
Local Icons: Alex Hales, Harry Gurney
Coach: Stephen Fleming
Priorities: Middle order batsmen, Powerplay bowlers, spin bowlers
The clue is in the name for the Trent Rockets – their home ground is going to be a significant focus for their planning. Trent Bridge is one of the best places to bat in white ball cricket anywhere in the world, and the Rockets will be only too aware of the need for batsmen who can score rapidly.
With that in mind, the return of Andre Russell to Nottingham (following a previous stint in county cricket) seems likely. Whilst doubts remain over his fitness, the West Indian is still the most dangerous batsman in world cricket, and (fitness permitting) could take the new ball as well. Stephen Fleming has, at Chennai Super Kings, built his reputation on a very strong core of local players, supplemented by overseas players who can supplement specific holes in the squad. Harry Gurney and Alex Hales fit this plan, but Fleming might be tempted to go for an elite overseas Powerplay bowler, given the relative lack of such bowlers in English cricket.
The first position in the draft is a double-edged sword. Sure, you get first pick of anyone you may want, but you theoretically only get access to one of the top 15 players in the list.
Draft Position: 2nd
Red Ball Player: Jofra Archer
Local Icons: James Vince, Chris Jordan
Coach: Mahela Jayawardene
Priorities: Middle order batsmen, Powerplay bowlers, spin bowlers
The Rose Bowl has a huge playing area, which has traditionally been well-suited to spinners. As such, Jayawardene may use the fact that his Local Icons cover three important bases (top order batting, captaincy, death bowling) to target some high-quality overseas spin, with Rashid Khan likely to be heading to Southampton in the first round. The opportunity to back this up with other domestic spinners familiar with the ground – like Liam Dawson – could be the focus for the second round.
Draft Position: 3rd
Red Ball Player: Ben Stokes
Local Icons: David Willey, Adil Rashid
Coach: Darren Lehmann
Priorities: Batsmen, death bowlers
Given Lehmann’s previous role as coach of Australia, you would expect the Superchargers to target high-quality Australian talent earlier, perhaps with a view to finding a captain. With that in mind, they may be more inclined to go for Aaron Finch rather than David Warner, given the baggage surrounding Warner in a leadership position. Equally, it’s a decision which could be made easier by the fact Finch has spent time at Headingley in county cricket.
Elsewhere, Superchargers have some important bases covered. Adil Rashid is the best domestic white ball spinner, and David Willey’s new ball bowling is matched with useful lower order hitting – and could easily be deployed as a pinch-hitter. They have a good base to build from.
Draft Position: 4th
Red Ball Player: Jonny Bairstow
Local Icons: Tom Banton, Colin Ingram
Coach: Gary Kirsten
Welsh Fire have arguably made the biggest gamble in the pre-draft. Somerset’s Tom Banton is a wonderfully exciting batsman, but to take him as a pick in the first few rounds is a huge show of faith in his talent, and combined with the call to take Colin Ingram in the same price band, it does rather limit Kirsten’s options in the early part of the draft. Only two of the first 27 picks on Sunday will be Welsh Fire, and they will need to be absolutely on their game if they are to secure elite players early on.
However, they have arguably landed the best of the Red Ball Players. Jonny Bairstow may well have his eyes on a recall to the Test side, and Ed Smith has insisted his absence is more a rest than a dropping, but the point remains – he is the only red ball player currently not in the red ball squad. Welsh Fire could easily see a lot of Bairstow, and as a genuinely world-class T20 opener that could make a huge difference to both their fortunes, and their recruitment approach. Whether they gamble on Bairstow remaining out of the Test squad could be a fascinating element of the draft.
Cardiff has very short straight boundaries, so Fire need to target quality pace bowlers, you would think. Their first round pick – and likely their second round pick – should be elite seam bowlers, either overseas like Mitchell Starc or Kagiso Rabada, or domestic.
Draft Position: 5th
Red Ball Player: Sam Curran
Local Icons: Jason Roy, Tom Curran
Coach: Tom Moody
Priorities: Spin bowlers, middle order batsmen
One of the world’s most renowned T20 coaches, Tom Moody has generally worked with a very clear style in this form of the game. His teams have typically focused on high quality bowling, with shallow but secure batting line-ups. Locking in an elite domestic opener (Roy) and one of the few elite domestic quicks (T Curran) is a great bit of business for the Invincibles in the pre-draft, and gives them plenty of versatility in the main draft to pursue any strategy they’d prefer.
Traditionally, the Oval is a good place to bat, but the large playing area does bring spinners more into the game than other good batting venues like Trent Bridge. Given Moody’s proclivity for strong spin attacks, this feels like the obvious area to target for the Oval.
Draft Position: 6th
Red Ball Player: Jos Buttler
Local Icons: Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson
Coach: Simon Katich
Manchester are in arguably the strongest position of any team, following the pre-draft. Parkinson is a top-level domestic wrist-spinner, a hugely valuable commodity who could easily have gone in the first three rounds on the open draft, and Mahmood is one of the most precocious (and rapid) seamers in English cricket. To have secured both as relatively cheap fifth and sixth round picks is a fantastic start to their recruitment, giving them an excellent domestic core. Add in the potential for a returning Buttler to sparkle up proceedings, and Simon Katich must be licking his lips.
However, they do still have a lot of work to do on the batting front. Given his experience of playing at Old Trafford it would be no surprise to see Glenn Maxwell join his compatriot Katich in Manchester after the first round. Beyond that, we may see the Australian coach draw on his Kolkata Knight Riders connections, and hope to bring Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine to the north-west, on the off chance the latter is still available by the time Manchester get their first pick.
Draft Position: 7th
Red Ball Player: Rory Burns
Local Icons: Eoin Morgan, Dan Lawrence
Coach: Shane Warne
Priorities: Fast bowlers, opening batsmen
London Spirit are in probably the worst position after the pre-draft, and have some work to do if they are to recover from some curious choices. Eoin Morgan is clearly a very exciting addition, and ensures that the Spirit will have both a captain and likely a clear playing style. However the decision to take Essex batsman (and part-time bowler) Dan Lawrence, over other potential options including Dawid Malan, Cameron Delport and Tom Helm is a peculiar one.
Lord’s isn’t always the best ground for white ball batting, but scores have risen in the last year or so – though perhaps that is more due to the presence of AB de Villiers than anything else. Regardless, the Spirit need to secure some quality bowlers, quickly.
Draft Position: 8th
Red Ball Player: Chris Woakes
Local Icons: Moeen Ali, Pat Brown
Coach: Andrew McDonald
Priorities: Batsmen, spin bowlers
Australian coach Andrew McDonald has a reputation for being very engaged with analytics, having just won the Big Bash with the Melbourne Renegades with such a method. Thus you would expect that the Phoenix could be in the market for some more under the radar picks, looking for value where others might not see it.
Having Moeen Ali already fixed is fantastic for Birmingham, providing them with a gun batsman, a rock-solid spinner and a captain. Pat Brown is an excellent prospect who has dominated domestic T20 in England for two years now, and whilst an international tour to New Zealand and a stint at the Big Bash could be a big step-up, he is one of a small number of elite English seamers.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.