AS the Women’s Big Bash League gets ready to kick off in season six, you might think the heat would be on defending champions Brisbane.
But star all-rounder Delissa Kimmince said relaxation was very much part of the message from coach Ashley Noffke as the team prepared to enter a five-week bubble for the tournament in Sydney this weekend.
The Heat will go into the village at Sydney Olympic Park full of confidence after winning the past two finals.
You might think that the team would be feeling pressure ahead of Sunday’s WBBL:06 opener against Perth Scorchers.
But Kimmince said the team was not even thinking about the three-peat.
“We are not going into this tournament feeling like we are favourites to win,” she said this week at the Heat’s season launch at Allan Border Field in Brisbane.
“The longer the tournament rolls on you can see the teams which are more consistent.
“You don’t win the tournament in the first game.
“We are probably not going in thinking about defending our title at all.
“Every tournament is new, and we obviously have new faces coming in, so it’s about getting the combinations right.
“We back one another to do their jobs. We are definitely not going down there thinking we have to keep our hands on the trophy, we are going down there to win like every other team is and I think we are in a really good place for that.
“We are not walking in there with a target on our back. We know we have to play good cricket if we want to win and we have to be consistent with that.
“We will go to Sydney relaxed and enjoy our cricket.”
Kimmince said the village life would suit the Heat players and as the tournament moved on it was important that the players find time for themselves in the bubble.
“Obviously, we realise there is a big summer ahead and we are looking to the bigger picture now,” she said.
“Our team has always been better on the road and when we feel like we are in that bubble.
“It’s a bit easier to get a bit of momentum when all the girls are together.
“It will be interesting having all the teams there in a village-type scenario and only coming and going for training and games.
“I think it will be the team that can adapt best to that and be able to switch off from cricket. I think that will be the hard thing with all the teams in the village to get away from constant cricket talk.
“I think the teams who can stick to their plans and adapt well will be the team that ends up winning the tournament.”
The Heat have lost two key players from last season in Beth Mooney and Sammy Jo Johnson.
But while Kimmince said Mooney, the No.1 batter in women’s T20 cricket, and all-rounder Johnson would be missed, she said the team had the players to fill the hole.
South African all-rounder Nadine de Klerk is set to provide the firepower in the Heat’s middle order, while New Zealanders Maddie Green and Amelia Kerr, will again be crucial to the Brisbane side’s batting order.
There are also some local youngsters coming through who coach Ashley Noffke says he will not be frightened to use in the new campaign.
Sixteen-year-old Georgia Voll and Charli Knott, 17, look set to play big roles for the Heat.
“We have got a lot of young girls in our squad,” Noffke said.
“We have got Georgi, who is in grade 11, we have got Charli in grade 12 and there are girls just out of that age group, so we have this evolution of next-generation players, which is really exciting.”
Kimmince too, was confident that the younger girls in the squad would step up to the plate alongside the more experienced members of the team, including powerful batter Grace Harris.
“We have obviously lost a couple of girls who have been consistent for us over the last few years, it’s a big hole to fill in terms of what they brought to our team,” she said.
“But we will give those who have been on the bench the opportunity and that’s what this tournament is all about and I have no doubt those girls will come in and do their jobs.”
Kimmince said while this year’s tournament would be different because of COVID-19 and village life, she backed her team to deal with the difficulties of living together for five weeks.
She added it was important that players found other things to occupy their minds in the bubble, although she says as one of the veterans of the squad, she would be taking the chance to just do nothing.
“You will probably find me locked away in my room away from people,” said Kimmince, who married teammate Laura Harris in August.
“I have done it for a long time now, so I know how to switch off and I am going to use the time that I have to get a bit of peace and quiet.
“In the first few weeks everyone might be up and about with the village life as they have set it up quite well for us, but I am quite wary that I don’t want to be burning my energy hitting golf balls or playing basketball.
“I will probably be the grandma of the group, get to bed early and try to switch off as much as I can.”
The Heat kick off their title defence this Sunday against a new-look Perth Scorchers outfit at North Sydney Oval.
The Scorchers have lost Australian skipper Meg Lanning, who has returned to the Melbourne Stars, but have recruited well, signing New Zealand captain Sophie Devine and also have England wicket-keeper Amy Jones in their ranks.
But all eyes will be on Mooney as the Queenslander comes up against her old teammates.
Kimmince was looking forward to the battle but was unsure how it would unfold.
“I think that’s been the hardest part because we have never had to plan to bowl against her,” she said.
“We have tried to chip into other teams and what they talk about.“We have seen how consistent she has been over the last few years.
“We are really going to have to get that right because we know she can hurt you at the back end of games.
“I think coming up against one of your old teammates is always interesting but at the same time, she knows all of my weapons, so there might be a bit of double-bluffing going on.”
While Noffke said there had not been a lot of talk about a three-peat, he was encouraging his players to continue to be confident ahead of their title defence.
“We don’t want to brush off winning two finals,” he said.
“We are not going to apologise for being the champions for the past couple of years. We are trying to set the bar and we are going to continue to do that.
“We are trying to win, and I won’t go against that thought.
“The girls are in a really good place and they are quite confident in the way they are playing, and I want them to keep that confidence rolling.”
Sunday’s fixtures: Scorchers v Heat, Strikers v Hurricanes, Sixers v Thunder, Stars v Renegades.