Melbourne Renegades: Life Without Chris Gayle

On Thursday, the Melbourne Renegades will play their first match of the tournament against the Sydney Thunder. There have been numerous changes for the Renegades since last season, with the most notable difference being the absence of Chris Gayle. However, they have managed to secure another overseas West Indian player in the form of spinner Sunil Narine. Captain Aaron Finch does not have the most explosive side, in terms of batting and bowling, and this has shown in their previous results. They have only made it out of the group stages on one occasion in 2012-13 and are likely to be unable to progress this year. However, with cricket being an unpredictable game, the Melbourne Renegades could surprise us all this season.

Damaged Batting Line-Up

As described above, West Indian powerhouse Chris Gayle will not be able to represent the Melbourne Renegades this year. This is due to the controversial incident that took place between him and reporter Mel McLaughlin last year. After getting out, Gayle was interviewed by McLaughlin about his innings. He said that he wanted to get out so he could talk to her and maybe have a drink later. Gayle followed up these comments by saying “don’t blush baby” after she appeared visibly perturbed. As a result of this, the Melbourne Renegades refused to give Gayle another contract for this season. They will miss him dearly. The left-hander was the Renegades’ highest run scorer last edition and is by far the most experienced player in their squad.

Australian international Aaron Finch, the side’s captain, will also play a major role for the Renegades this year. Finch looked in fine form on Thursday’s warm-up match against local rivals the Melbourne Stars. He blasted an impressive 54 off 35 opening the batting as usual. This will be extremely encouraging for the Renegades and Finch will be looking to build on his good year. He made lots of runs against India, not only in the World T20 but also in the matches before it. Finch’s experience will be vital to the Melbourne side and he will be looking to continue to dominate most bowling attacks.

Finch’s runs will be crucial for the Renegades [Getty]
Veteran and part-time leg spinner Cameron White will be a huge boost to the Renegade’s middle order. An explosive player with a career strike T20 of near 130, the middle order batsmen will be key to the Renegades without the explosive Gayle. White, 33 years old, has made some large runs in Australia’s longer format domestic competition the Sheffield Shield. In his last four matches, White has scored 308 runs at an average of over 102. More impressively, was his performances in the 50 over Matador Cup. Playing for Victoria against Tasmania, White blasted an unbeaten 117 off just 112 balls to seal an eight wicket victory for his side. He followed that up with two scores of 69 in his next two matches. White is indeed in exceptional form at the moment and the Renegades will be relying on him heavily.

Do they have a strong bowling attack?

Overall, the Renegades bowling attack is not as strong as most other teams. It is likely that the spearhead of their pace attack will be Peter Siddle. Siddle is still part of Australia’s Test side and played against New Zealand in their recent Test series. However, Siddle has not played an international limited overs match for over six years. His performances in the Matador Cup were slightly disappointing, only picking up a handful of wickets. The Melbourne Renegades will be desperately hoping that he manages to shift up a gear and really find his rhythm.

It is likely that Nathan Rimmington will be a part of the Renegade’s pace attack. He opened the bowling for them in their last practice match against the Melbourne Stars alongside Chris Tremain. Rimmington had a rough outing, as he conceded 36 in his three overs. He looked to be visibly struggling to find his line and length and sent down three wides in the process. In the past, Rimmington has not been an economical bowler. His career T20 economy is around 7.9, but he will pick up lots of wickets in the process. It is fair to say that Rimmington is key to the Renegades, but he will have to aim to focus on being economical and building pressure with the new ball.

One can expect that the Melbourne Renegades will play a two-man spin attack consisting of Xavier Doherty and Sunil Narine. Doherty has been out of favour with the Australian selectors in recent years as they have preferred leg-spinner Adam Zampa. However, Doherty has continually impressed on the domestic circuit. While his recent performances have been disappointing, culminating in conceding 43 runs in his four overs on Thursday.

If he cannot find form, the Renegades will be relying heavily on new overseas player Sunil Narine. The West Indian “mystery spinner” is joining the Renegades for the first time and will be looking to make a mark. Narine is purely a limited overs bowler and has mastered the skill of bowling aggressively while not conceding many runs in the process. His experience of having played 196 T20 matches will be vital. Most impressive, however, is the fact that his overall career T20 economy rate is just over 5.5. This is a truly remarkable feat and shows just how talented a player he is. There is no doubt that he will be a success in Melbourne, even if the pitches are not turning that much. Be sure to watch out for Narine this season.

Realistic Aims

Heading into this year’s tournament, the Melbourne Renegades need to set realistic targets. It will be extremely tough for them to stand a chance in winning the tournament, but they should be aiming to get out of the group stages. Their batting line-up is heavily dependent on Aaron Finch and Cameron White and they will be missing Chris Gayle sorely. In terms of their bowling, they don’t have much depth in their squad. If a few key players get injured, it will be hard for the Renegades to cover for them. We will have to wait and see how they fare, but don’t expect too much from this side.