Adelaide Strikers captain Travis Head has backed Jason Gillespie as the right man to lead the club following a disappointing end to their KFC BBL|12 campaign.
The Strikers failed to qualify for the knockout phase of the tournament after being on top of the standings on December 28 with three wins from their opening five games.
A six-wicket defeat to the Renegades on Tuesday night completed a run of five straight losses to end the season as they missed the finals by two points.
Gillespie signed a two-year extension in early December to stay on as South Australia Redbacks coach, rewarding the 71-Test quick and his side for a promising start to the 2022-23 domestic summer after just one Marsh Sheffield Shield win in the previous two seasons.
But the Strikers’ form has been much more consistent. They made the penultimate Challenger final in BBL|11 before falling short in a last-ball thriller as allrounder Hayden Kerr produced a knock for the ages to get the undermanned Sixers over the line.
That was a third return to finals in four seasons after the club claimed its maiden Big Bash title in BBL|07 with Gillespie in charge.
Head described this season as a “little blip” and said they had 12 months to look at the reasons why BBL|12 panned out the way it did.
“South Australia have had their difficulties in the other formats of the game and that’s completely separate,” he said. “We’ve got a completely different group and different set of guys.
“(Gillespie has) obviously had the reins of both, and we’ve been able to put out some really good performances over the years when he’s been head coach of the Adelaide Strikers.
“This is probably the most disappointing season for the Strikers … we’ve been unbelievable for a long period of time.
“We’ve always been mixing it in the playoffs. Last year the run we were able to make, I feel like we were one of the teams that could have knocked off the Scorchers.
“Every year we’ve been really competitive, ‘Dizzy’ (Gillespie) is a mainstay of that and the reason why we’ve been there.
“This is one year that hasn’t gone to plan but I wouldn’t look too deep into that. I think we’re moving forward well, and we’ve got to make sure we step up next year and work on what we need to do.”
While the Strikers did lose superstar leg-spinners Rashid Khan and Chris Lynn to rival T20 leagues during the second half the season, they also welcomed back their Australian representatives Head and Alex Carey.
Carey found his groove with two half-centuries in four innings after switching from red ball to white, but Head struggled following his best Test summer with just 34 runs and a top score of 19 in his four hits for the Strikers.
It was an up-and-down tournament for the South Australian club who bowled the Thunder out for a world record low men’s T20 score of 15 and chased down the highest total in BBL history against the Hurricanes.
But they also lost to the bottom-placed Melbourne Stars twice, which would ultimately prove costly as they missed finals qualification by one win.
“We’d have a good batting game and then let ourselves down with the ball and then we’d have a good bowling day and just couldn’t get the job done with the bat,” Gillespie said following the season-ending loss to the Renegades on Tuesday.
“It’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow because we are quite a talented group of players.
“But we just haven’t been able to find a way in critical moments in games throughout the season to get the job done, which is disappointing.”
Lynn, who hit 416 runs striking at 141 in his 11 games before joining the Gulf Giants in the UAE’s International League T20 competition where he has started with scores of 22, 25, 71 and 20, is yet to re-sign for next season but Gillespie and Head were confident that if he did play in the Big Bash, it would be with the Strikers.
“He’s been in constant contact with us, he’s over in the UAE playing for the Gulf Giants but he’s still checking in and wishing the boys all the best,” Gillespie said. “He genuinely loved his time with us, and he performed.
“Not having known Chris particularly well before he joined the Strikers … I loved not only his cricket knowledge around the group and his contributions with the team, but how he interacted with all our players, but particularly a couple of our young batters.
“The time and effort he put into guiding them and helping them with their game I thought was sensational.”
Clubs can make list moves until a contracting embargo kicks in with the first ball of the BBL|12 Final on February 4.
The length of the embargo can vary but it is expected to be lifted mid-year and is aligned to the finalization of contracting rules for the following season, which will largely be shaped by the ongoing Memorandum of Understanding negotiations between Cricket Australia and the players’ union, the Australian Cricketers’ Association.