The Adelaide Strikers are one of the competition's more stable teams and will be hoping to put last season's poor results down to a blip in form.
Having won the title in BBL|07, they fell flat last summer and slumped to seventh.
Fan favourite Rashid Khan returns for another year, recruit Phil Salt will look to add some top-order fireworks and head coach Jason Gillespie has set high expectations in the field.
Alex Carey has continued to improve after a stellar 50-over World Cup but with a glut of top-order firepower can expect to see himself slot into the Strikers middle-order, which will no doubt please Justin Langer and the Australian set-up given that's the role the gloveman can expect to fill in the national limited-overs set-up.
Carey is also likely to continue expanding his captaincy experience while marquee star Travis Head is on Test duty, with veteran Cameron White on-hand to mentor him in his first season with the Strikers.
Billy Stanlake has shown signs of being back to his best with Queensland after a indifferent BBL|08 while the likes of Wes Agar and Nick Winter continue to improve and that should offset the loss of Ben Laughlin, whom the Strikers graciously let out of his contract a year early to be closer to his family in Brisbane.
BBL|08 result: Seventh (six wins, eight defeats)
Squad: Wes Agar, Alex Carey, Harry Conway, Travis Head, Rashid Khan (Afghanistan), Jake Lehmann, Michael Neser, Harry Nielsen, Liam O'Connor, Philip Salt (England), Matt Short, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Cameron Valente, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells, Cameron White, Nick Winter.
(Players can be added during the tournament if squad members are unavailable due to injury or national selection)
Ins: Harry Conway, Harry Nielsen, Phil Salt, Cameron White
Outs: Michael Cormack, David Grant, Colin Ingram, Ben Laughlin
Cricket.com.au possible best XI for first game: Phil Salt, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells, Jake Lehmann, Matt Short, Alex Carey (wk), Michael Neser, Rashid Khan, Peter Siddle, Wes Agar, Billy Stanlake
The inside word with coach Jason Gillespie
We've had a couple of changes – Colin Ingram is not coming back. So that meant we needed another overseas batting option, but we also lost a bit with Colin's leadership and experience. It left a little bit of a void.
The first part we've filled with Phil Salt, a dashing high-octane player who can score quickly. He's younger, a little less experienced, but he's got young legs and he's very good in the field. With the leadership side of things – and with Travis (Head) and Alex (Carey) in the Australian side for periods of time, we needed an experienced head around a team throughout the season, so we've secured the services of Cameron White. He's a former Australian captain, he's a great thinker about the game, vastly experienced, especially in T20 cricket, and someone that can add value to our team. We've said to him we do want his leadership and nous – he's going to be doing a little bit of coaching work with the players too – but first and foremost he's a player and his job is to prepare to play. How much he plays will depend on conditions, who's available and how the squad matches up.
We've also picked up Harry Conway and he has a bit of energy about him, doesn't he? He hasn't played a lot of T20 but we want adaptable players, and we can see that his skills are transferrable between formats and we're confident he'll be able to do a job for us.
We weren't going to stand in the way of Ben Laughlin's desire to go home and be closer to his family. Yes, he had another year to run on his contract, but at the end of the day we decided it was better for everyone for him to be able to do that.
We're all absolutely fine. I've been in touch with our Sports Science department and there's no injury concerns as the guys come in from playing six rounds of Shield. The first couple of days will be pretty light in terms of training to get into T20 mode. We've got a practice match against the Scorchers on the 16th and we'll go from there to build up to our first game against the Sydney Thunder on the 21st.
Salty (Phil Salt) is an aggressive top-order player, he likes to get on with things and play his shots. He's got a very aggressive mindset and he's been brought in to play his natural game. We'll be encouraging him to go out and trust his game and enjoy it. I think the crowds really will warm to him. He's a bit of a cheeky chap, he's got a bit of personality about him, which is a good thing, and he's an absolute gun fielder.
Rashid Khan just keeps going from strength to strength. We've been fortunate to have him for the last couple of years here at the Strikers. I've also had him at Sussex for the last couple of English summers. I've spent a lot of time with Rash, he's a wonderful human being and there's a reason why he's the No.1 T20 bowler in the world. He just consistently gets the job done, but it's not just about that. It's what he brings to our franchise – he looks to grow the game, he's a great ambassador and role model for the game of cricket and his country, Afghanistan. We're so delighted he's part of the Strikers family and we hope to have him as long as possible.
We'll miss Travis Head around the Test matches, and we know Alex Carey will head off for the ODI series in India. We'll wait and see what happens with Michael Neser and the Test squad. We know international scheduling has its challenges, so we're just enjoying having Rashid for as much as we've had so far. At the moment we're fine this season – there's always a chance something could be put into the calendar but nothing we're aware of that will prevent him from playing for us.
Phil was in the England squad for a one-off game last summer but didn't play. He's probably a reserve player for England at this stage but England management are very keen for him to get as much experience around the world as possible.
It's great for us, because the one thing we like at the Strikers is continuity with our overseas players. We much prefer to have that continuity than having someone come in for five games or whatever.
I think Wes Agar is someone you should keep an eye on. He's had a really good 50-over comp, and he's bowled really well in the Sheffield Shield. He's definitely one to watch – we've got some very high hopes for him. He played a few games last season and acquitted himself quite well and he's continually growing and improving.
And Matt Short is another one to watch this year who could have a big impact on the franchise. Last year was his first with us and he had some mixed success, but he's a great lad, he's shown some real form for Victoria this year, so look forward to him doing well.
Player to watch
The overseas players always tend to take the headlines so I expect them to have a big impact again. But Alex Carey is a really fine player. He's grown so much, his experience in the Australian side has held him in good stead. He's growing into that role as the Australian wicketkeeper-batsman. He's shown his adaptability to thrive in a variety of different situations, and I think that's been a real feature of his cricket. He's opened the batting in T20 cricket, he's opened in one-dayers, he's batted in the middle order. He's had some big scores in first-class cricket. His 'keeping is going from strength to strength and he's only going to get better and better.
Your biggest strength?
Our fielding is going to be a real feature this year. We're continually making sure everyone knows we want to be the best fielding side in the competition. We've got some real energetic guys out in the field. We're going to be a selfless team in terms of players who will do what's required for the team. You'll see a squad who work for each other. We've got dynamic stroke-makers and some really disciplined bowlers and everyone knows their roles and working to fill those for the team.
Inconsistency. If we move away from our game plan and not be consistent in everything we do, that will lead to inconsistency on the park. Our recovery between games is potentially going to be as important as our training sessions. We're playing a lot of cricket in a very short space of time. How we manage the players and our recoveries and all that is very going to be very important. We need to focus on quality over quantity.