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August 1, 2012
Australia captain Michael Clarke's signing of a contract with the Sydney Thunder for next summer's BBL may be the solution to an impasse that had left David Warner curiously unsigned at the end of the competition's primary recruitment window.
Clarke officially confirmed his move to the Thunder on Wednesday, and his signature grants the team the big Australian name they crave to sell their team to the public in the lead-up to season two. It was a role that had been taken up by Warner last summer when he captained the Thunder.
"Playing for Sydney Thunder is a great opportunity for me to play for a team rooted in Sydney's western suburbs as well as to support Cricket Australia in building on last year's Big Bash success," Clarke said. "I am really excited about playing a part in the Big Bash, particularly as it will be against the other Sydney team.
"Not only do I get to play alongside superstar T20 internationals like Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi but also with a bunch of great young guys just starting to make their mark, many of whom grew up in the west."
However Warner is understood to be keen to move across town to the Sydney Sixers for 2012-13, and had begun discussing terms with the team that lifted the inaugural BBL trophy.
This is believed to have led to an untidy round of discussions between Warner, the Sixers, the Thunder and Cricket Australia, as the opening batsman's personal preference was weighed up against his value as the face of the Thunder and its desired market in Sydney's west.
Apart from winning the BBL last summer, the Sixers cultivated a happy team environment around the SCG under the coaching of Trevor Bayliss and the wider management of Stuart Clark.
By contrast, the Thunder battled for strong results and faced difficulties surrounding their home base at Sydney's Olympic Stadium, with transport believed to be one of several issues for players.
Warner, meanwhile, had also changed management since the summer, moving across from Peter Lovitt's Driver Avenue Group to Tony Conolly's Entourage Management, which handles the business of the Test vice-captain Shane Watson.
As current members of Australia Test team, Warner and Clarke are unlikely to play more than one BBL game, the season-opening 'derby' between the Sixers and the Thunder at the SCG, but their presence in competition marketing and advertising is considered critical to drawing crowds to the games.
Clarke's presence at the Thunder allows the team a major Australian name on which to hang its colours, alongside the high-profile overseas imports, Gayle and Afridi. It also allows Clarke to be more firmly engaged with the western suburbs in which he grew up.
Last summer Clarke chose not to take part in the BBL and concentrated his energies on making a strong start to his Test captaincy of Australia, leading the team to a 4-0 hiding of India in the series played opposite the Twenty20 competition. However he warmed to T20 later in the year, accepting Sourav Ganguly's lucrative offer to play for Pune in the IPL.
This short stint signalled Clarke's interest in making a T20 nest for himself that may extend beyond the end of his international playing career, as it has done for the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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