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It might be cricket's fastest format, but it's the slow bowlers who will again look to be some of T20's leading men when the KFC T20 Big Bash League starts in 22 days. The league will be home to an elite squad of T20 spin bowlers in BBL|02 - including 14 with international experience - after they became the hottest property on the market during the off-season.
International superstars Muttiah Muralidaran, Sunil Narine and the world's top ranked T20 bowler, Saeed Ajmal, headline the list of new spinners to the BBL while a number have switched teams. Aaron O'Brien, the fifth most economical bowler in BBL|01, has moved from the Adelaide Strikers to Melbourne Renegades, Glenn Maxwell has crossed Melbourne from the Renegades to the Stars and Shahid Afridi has linked with Chris Gayle at the Sydney Thunder.
Promising Australians Cameron Boyce (Strikers), Clive Rose (Stars) and Ashton Agar (Scorchers) are among those who will play in the BBL for the time.
These players, along with established names Shane Warne (Stars), Dan Vettori (Heat), Xavier Doherty (Hurricanes), Brad Hogg and Michael Beer (Scorchers), will form a high-quality spin bowling group in this season's BBL.
"Spinners have done really well in the Twenty20 format so hopefully we keep doing well in this competition as well," Muralidaran says.
"It's not easy to hit spin because you vary the pace of the ball. Some players also turn the ball and have a lot of different deliveries these days so people struggle to read them.
"I watched some matches last year because I was playing in New Zealand. It was fun because there were a lot of good players involved and it was a great success. Hopefully we see it this year as well. There are a lot of great players playing in the tournament and hopefully this year will be successful as well like the IPL."
The demand for proven slow bowlers is no surprise given slow bowling's effectiveness in BBL|01. Of players who bowled at least 12 overs, the three most economical (and seven of the top 10) were spinners with Hogg, Stephen O'Keefe and Luke Doran leading the way with an average economy rate of 5.81 runs per over.
Overall, the top 10 spinners conceded 6.45 runs per over against a league-wide average scoring rate of 7.94. By comparison the top 10 fast bowlers conceded 7.11 runs per over.
"It's no secret that we feel spin is a big part of T20," Strikers coach Darren Berry says.
"'Spin to win' has always been a flavor of mine as coach and with Botha, Lyon and now Ajmal, we believe we have secured three of the best spinners in the world.
"When Jon Holland unfortunately went down with his shoulder injury, we probably strategically moved to secure another quality spinner and we're delighted to be able to secure Ajmal."
The ICC's player rankings further illustrate slow bowling's influence in T20. The top five ranked international bowlers (and eight of the top 10) are spinners, including three who will play in the KFC T20 Big Bash League, led by world no.1 and new Strikers recruit Ajmal. The Strikers also have Johan Botha (No.5) while the Sydney Thunder's Afridi is ranked no.7.
There are 11 contracts still to be offered before the final squads of 18 players must be submitted on 30 November 2012, leaving room for teams to bolster their slow bowling ranks even further before the league starts on 7 December with the BIG MELBOURNE DERBY between the Renegades and Stars at Etihad Stadium. The following night, the BIG SYDNEY DERBY will be played between the Sixers and Thunder at the SCG.
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