BBL top-up players miffed at Adam Zampa, Mark Waugh criticism

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  • Justin Avendano
    Australian cricketer
Justin Avendano is something of a BBL journeyman, with recent Covid-19 disruptions providing an opportunity for grade cricketers like himself to prove themselves on a big stage. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Justin Avendano is something of a BBL journeyman, with recent Covid-19 disruptions providing an opportunity for grade cricketers like himself to prove themselves on a big stage. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Justin Avendano was lying on a couch in a Blue Mountains Airbnb recovering from a big New Year's Eve when his phone rang.

Ben Rohrer, who Avendano knew through the Sydney grade cricket scene, was on the other end.

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"He said, 'hey mate, do you want to play a couple of (BBL) games for the next few days and I was like 'yeah, when you thinking?' and he said 'tomorrow'," Avendano told Yahoo Sport Australia.

"I'm three hours from home, I don’t even know where my cricket kit is, we'd had a bit of a party, but I said 'alright, let’s make this work'."

Avendano had one last question for Rohrer before hanging up.

"I said, 'so mate, who I am playing for?' and he said 'the Stars'.

"I didn't realise he was with the Stars (as a batting coach). He never mentioned that at the start of the original call, but I was in whether it was the Stars, Heat, Hurricanes…whoever."

Eighteen hours after taking that call from Rohrer, Avendano walked out at St Kilda's Junction Oval in the lime green of the Stars.

Welcome to the strangest of times for a group of cricketers on the cusp of the professional game.

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Avendano is part of a pool of top-up players on stand-by to BBL clubs impacted by Covid withdrawals.

They can be called on at any time, any place.

Most are from the grade cricket system and relatively unknown outside of club circles.

It's led to the likes of Adam Zampa and Mark Waugh questioning the integrity of the BBL, with clubs forced to fill their rosters with uncontracted players just to keep the competition going.

Avendano, who became the first player to represent two franchises in one season when he was drafted into the Sixers squad after two games with the Stars, doesn’t take the criticism personally.

But he argues the new faces bring zest to a competition which can suffer from viewer fatigue.

Justin Avendano has also appeared for the Sydney Sixers this BBL season. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Justin Avendano has also appeared for the Sydney Sixers this BBL season. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

"As much as people whinge and whine about grade cricketers playing, we all started in grade cricket," he pointed out.

"It goes to show there is a lot of talent out there and it's a chance for us to show people what we can do.

"Look at what Tom Rogers was able to do at the Stars after coming out of Melbourne grade cricket.

"Blooding some of these young players makes it more exciting than seeing the same faces all the time.

"There's a lot of us coming out of that grade system and you just want to grab that chance when it’s presented and potentially set yourself up with a deal next year.

"Personally, I am very grateful for the opportunity and the welcome I received at the Stars and it’s the same at the Sixers.

"It's nice to know you’re still on the radar."

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