Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch are glad to be home.
Well, sort of.
The Stars and Renegades have finally returned to Victoria … but they are near home, staying inside cricket’s biosecurity bubble at the Park Hyatt Hotel, rather than at home.
“It has its challenges when you look out the window and can nearly see home, but you’re not quite there yet,” Finch said.
Still, unpacking the bags for the final time and having family and friends in the MCG stands on Friday night has energised the Stars.
Life on the road became taxing when every second or third day a new document would be handed down with updated restrictions as each border was crossed.
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In some hubs you could go for a walk, grab a takeaway coffee and go indoors wearing a mask.
In others, nobody was allowed to leave the hotel.
“You’re sort of getting your basic normal human rights taken away from you,” Maxwell told News Corp.
“It can be tough when you’re transitioning from different states that have different rules, and for us we did a lot of travelling.
“You’re going through sheets and sheets of information to work out what you can and can’t do.
“When we arrived here it was a red zone for our first couple of days and we thought that was going to be quite difficult.
“But on day one we got told it was orange and then things opened up a little bit for us. I can’t imagine how blokes would’ve gone if it was red.
“To finish off the tournament and not have the ability to walk around and get a takeaway coffee in Melbourne is pretty brutal.
“Guys have been able to go for walks through Fitzroy Gardens and chill out and get some fresh air.”
HOW STARS REACTED TO DUNK’S SUDDEN EXIT
Stars arrived in Melbourne minus Ben Dunk, the batsman who last week had the final season and a half of his lucrative five-year contract torn up.
The early exit should allow Dunk to play T10 cricket in the UAE, rather than sitting on the Stars’ bench, and opens up a list spot and some salary cap space for Maxwell’s men.
Dunk, 33, played the first six games this season and was then dropped as his average for the Stars dipped to 16.3 after 42 games.
“(Dunk) called me in the morning and said he had some news and he was pretty emotional,” Maxwell said.
“It’s probably the best thing for him if he’s not going to be playing. It gives him the opportunity to play in other parts of the world and gets to see his family at Christmas.
“Dunky being one of my close friends it was hard to see him like that, pretty emotional. But we wish him all the best.”
WILL EMOTIONS RUN HOT AGAIN IN DERBY?
Emotions ran high in last year’s derby, too, when Kane Richardson struck a nerve with Marcus Stoinis, and Stoinis struck back with a homophobic slur.
Stoinis was stung $7500 and, while Maxwell had forgotten, he suspected the sold-out crowd of 15,000 at the MCG on Sunday night would remember.
“I won’t say no (there won’t be any heat),” he said.
“It’ll be interesting to see. They’re two competitive beasts and love to go at it.
“The crowd will certainly be looking at that.”
Haris Rauf has gone from Maxwell’s attack to Pakistan’s Test attack against South Africa, although Nathan Coulter-Nile (calf) should replace Rauf against the Gades either on Sunday or Wednesday.
But strike bowler James Pattinson hasn’t been sighted in the red camp and Finch was unsure when he would return, but said South African Rilee Rossouw (hamstring) should make it back.
A phoncall from legend Brian Lara helped Andre Fletcher (89 not-out) find form on Friday as Maxwell’s team clicked in its return to the MCG.
Lara told ‘The Spiceman’ not to force his aggression, and the runs finally flowed for the much-loved West Indian.
Adam Zampa – soldering on with two sore shoulders – stood at the top of his mark and took a moment to savour being back at the ‘G, and Finch’s team will get its turn on Sunday night.
Finch (averaging 17.7) conceded an unnatural focus on batting defensively had led to his lean run.
Finch was so desperate to bat until the 15th over against Brisbane that he disappeared in the eighth.
“It’s only an attitude thing so I can change that,” he said.
YOUNG RENEGADE DRAWING MAXWELL COMPARISONS
No such problem for 18-year-old Jake Fraser-McGurk, who has been a shining light in another bleak season for the red team.
“He’s an attacking player and he puts pressure on the opposition so quickly in a similar way to Maxi,” Finch said.
“Through good shots, through a bit of brute force and 360-batsmanship as well at times.”
The Maxwell comparison is high praise, although one-time Renegade Maxwell didn’t have quite as much luck when he was a Big Bash baby.
Maxwell – the face of the Stars as its super skipper – played six games for the Renegades in BBL01 as a 23-year-old.
“I had the big, scruffy hair and the pink Puma stickers,” Maxwell said.
“That was when I did my first major injury, I did my knee.
“I tore the PCL at Marvel fielding on the boundary and was out for four or five weeks.
“Bad omen, so I got out of there. But great memories – it was a top order of Finch, (Brad) Hodge, Maxwell and (Andrew) McDonald.
“Three of my closest friends now still.”