BBL: Sam Harper blindsided by Renegades and Stars trade

Sam Harper was caught off-guard when asked to move back to the Melbourne Stars in a surprise BBL trade deal but says he is excited for a prominent top-order role with his new club.

The Victorian wicketkeeper said he was completely unaware he would be involved in a trade between the Stars and Renegades for legspinner Adam Zampa until he was tapped on the shoulder at the end of last season.

The Renegades’ move to push out Harper came after a strong campaign with 264 runs at a strike rate of 141, but the 26-year-old said he felt out of the domestic players, only “the bigger dogs” could expect to have a say on where they played in the BBL.

“A person of my calibre just gets dealt the cards they’re given – you just look for the best opportunity and lucky enough for me that was with the Stars,” Harper said.

“Initially, if I’m honest, (I felt) disappointment, being at the Renegades for a long time … I had pretty good friends and relationships there, all who I enjoyed playing with.

“I just look back with joy and gratefulness for the experiences they gave me … and now full circle looking forward to getting stuck in with the Stars.”

Harper made his BBL debut with the Stars in 2016-17 before he switched to the cross-town rivals and immediately claimed a league title, with the Stars rarely using a specialist keeper during the period they went without him.

He said he was likely to begin the tournament opening the batting with Victorian teammate Tom Rogers, with Marcus Stoinis and captain Glenn Maxwell to follow.

Thursday night’s opener in Brisbane against the Heat will be Maxwell’s first BBL innings since he smashed an unbeaten 154 from just 64 balls in a mammoth total of 2-273 in early 2022.

Harper said he was excited to see the limited overs star in action after his extraordinary feats in India.

Fresh off the second-fastest 150 in Sheffield Shield history at the Adelaide Oval last week, Harper said he felt he could transfer his form into the T20 format.

“(The Adelaide pitch) was doing a fair bit last week – all four innings the teams were 3-20 pretty much,” he said.

“I thought the positive approach was the way to go, a bit Brendon McCullum-esque, I didn’t think my defence was good enough for that wicket so I thought I may as well take them on.

“I thought I was going into the season pretty well last year and the tournament didn’t start as well as I wanted it to – then I thought I wasn’t going that well and all of a sudden there was three 50 in a row.”

With the Australian selectors yet to settle on a keeper for next year’s T20 World Cup, a strong BBL could catapult Harper into the frame, but while acknowledging his ambition to play international cricket, he said it would take significant improvement to get there.

“I think I’ve probably got to make a few more runs … any young kid coming through obviously has dreams and aspirations to make the national level, I don’t think anyone would make that shy, but I’m pretty realistic about where I’m at,” he said.

“You never know, hopefully a great year with the Stars and some consistency in my batting could potentially in the future lead to some opportunities.”

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