THE Melbourne Stars will be missing lethal Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga when its Big Bash League campaign starts with a derby against Melbourne Renegades at the MCG tonight.
Malinga, who took 13 wickets at 10.69 to finish second behind Hobart Hurricanes' Ben Laughlin (14 at 15.35) on the leading wicket-taking list last season, is on international duty in the ODI series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
He'll miss the first two games, while Aussie all-rounder James Faulkner will also be absent after breaking his thumb while batting in the nets before the third Ashes Test at the WACA. Faulkner has been replaced by Victorian leg-spinner James Muirhead.
Despite the absence of Malinga and Faulkner, the Stars, who like the Renegades lost in the semi-finals last season, still have plenty of quality in their 13-man squad for the game.
Eight of the 13 have played T20 internationals for their respective countries. Seven of those - including big-hitting Cameron White, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, veterans Brad Hodge and David Hussey, and Australian ODI Player of the Year Clint McKay - for Australia. The other is English international all-rounder Luke Wright.
He will come up against his England teammate, wicketkeeper/batsman Jos Buttler, who is in line to make his debut for the Renegades.
The Renegades will again be captained by power-hitting Australian opener Aaron Finch, last season's player of the series.
Finch, who blasted a T20 international record of 156 against England in August, scored 332 runs at 66.40 last season, with a best of 111 not out off only 65 deliveries in an eight-wicket thrashing of the Stars. Finch said he didn't mind that his team were going in as underdogs.
"We don't have many egos. We just turn up and try to do our business. They've got the high-profile players and all the big names," he said.
- RICHARD HARVEY
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