Stars’ bold attempt to lure BBL icon out of retirement
Depleted by injuries to key players and with the season fast approaching, the Melbourne Stars recently made a last-ditch play to lure Brad Hodge out of retirement.
Foxsports.com.au can reveal the SOS call was made after Nic Maddinson broke his arm in a Sheffield Shield game a fortnight ago, leaving the Stars batting order thin on T20 expertise and experience.
Hodge, who retired from professional cricket in February and has since turned his hand to media and coaching, seriously considered the offer but ultimately rejected it.
It is understood the 43 year-old was initially surprised and grateful to receive a phone call and gave the proposal due consideration.
The Stars' left-field move to sign Hodge for a second time in the club's history highlights the complexities of building a Big Bash League list, where injury, form and national selection all intertwine across a 14-game home and away season.
Instead of Hodge, the Stars have reached out to New South Wales batsman Nick Larkin to fill the void left by the departures of Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright, Bobby Quiney and injured duo Seb Gotch (finger) and Maddinson (arm).
Larkin, 28, has never made a white-ball half century for NSW from 10 List A matches, but boasts two first-class tons this season.
Peter Handscomb's national duties may also render him absent for a portion of the season, while skipper Glenn Maxwell is likely to be required for Australia's three one-dayers against India in mid-January.
In addition, the Stars lost John Hastings, who signed with the Sydney Thunder before a mystery illness forced him to prematurely retire, while James Faulkner is now a Hobart Hurricane to complete the squad overhaul.
Hodge, although generally fit, was unsure he had enough cricket-specific fitness to compete at the top level again. He was also believed to be comfortable in retirement and pursuing media opportunities in radio and television.
When the offer came, the soon-to-be 44-year-old had not played a match since early October, when he turned out for East Sandringham against Bentleigh Uniting in Melbourne's suburban competition. Batting at five, he made 7 off 17 balls and took 5-57 with the ball. He has not played for them since.
Maddinson, alongside Dwayne Bravo, were two players earmarked to fill the void left by key departures in the winter. Now much of the heavy-lifting - at least early in the tournament - will be left to largely unproven short-form players such as Larkin and Travis Dean, while more pressure will be on Marcus Stoinis and Ben Dunk to make big runs.
Dunk, who is in the middle of a long-term deal with the glamour franchise, endured a disappointing BBL 07 campaign but has twice been named player of the tournament.
Hodge would have been signed as a local replacement player under Cricket Australia's regulations. Each club is permitted two local replacements and two overseas replacements.
The BBL technical committee, consisting of Abhi Arunachalam, Peter Roach and Nicole Malcher, must approve the written application for a player to be replaced. It's understood this process would have been a formality had Hodge agreed to terms.
Hodge started his Big Bash career for the Melbourne Renegades, before joining the Stars from 2012-2014. He then skippered the Adelaide Strikers but returned to the Renegades last summer for a final tilt at a title after the South Australian franchise controversially dumped him.
The Melbourne Stars begin their Big Bash campaign against the Sydney Thunder in Canberra on Friday night.