Big Bash League 2013-14 January 16, 2014

Clarke, Warner signings hurt Thunder

Sydney Thunder General Manager Nick Cummins believes the signings of international players Michael Clarke and David Warner to the franchise have unintentionally contributed to the Thunder's horrendous season. Cummins took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter to members and fans explaining some of the issues surrounding the struggling franchise just two days after the Thunder snapped a 19-game, 753-day, losing streak against the Melbourne Renegades.

In the letter, posted on the Thunder's website, Cummins explained the signings of Clarke and Warner. Clarke has not been able to play for the franchise this season while Warner has made just one appearance against the Sixers.

"While both these players were signed before I started at the Sydney Thunder these were well-intentioned decisions that have not proven to be successful," Cummins said.

Cummins cited Clarke's ongoing back issues and the importance of the Ashes series for his absence, saying that Cricket Australia had prioritised Test cricket and that Clarke was managed accordingly and was not made available for the Thunder as a result. He defended the signing of Warner saying the franchise expected him to be available.

"It is important for members to remember that when David was signed by the Thunder he was not playing ODI cricket for Australia," Cummins said. "His place was not secure in the Test team and he was left out of the ODI tour to India. To David's credit (and our detriment), he put together a stunning run of centuries in both the Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield.

"We went from expecting David to play as many as all eight BBL games to only having him for one."

Cummins went on to say that the absence of Clarke and Warner and injuries to Tillakaratne Dilshan, Usman Khawaja, Luke Doran, and AJ Tye severely tested the depth of the squad and it is something the franchise will address for next season.

"We recognise that our list is short of experience, that our older players are being asked to carry too much of the burden and our younger players are being thrust into roles that has tested their experience," he said. "However, we have a list of players that we are targeting, that we think will profoundly improve the Thunder. I am not going to speculate on names, but understand that we will be aggressive in our recruiting."

Cummins also directly addressed the team's overall performance. "Certainly we have not achieved the points target we set ourselves at the start of the season," he said. "However, I think we have made enormous strides in becoming a more competitive outfit. We've broken our run of defeats and we were able to put ourselves in winning positions in four other games.

"Unfortunately, a combination of luck, inexperience and poor execution saw us fail to post a win in those four close games. We've been very disappointed with the games against the Heat and Hurricanes, as they were not played in the manner that we expect.

"The players know this and understand where they need to improve."

Former Thunder coach Shane Duff told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday that he felt the franchise had been "set up for failure" from the outset and that the facilities and resources made available to the coaching and playing staff were "unacceptable" and a major reason why the franchise could not attract quality players.

Cummins explained the improvements that have been made in these areas.

"Off the field we have made enormous progress," he said. "From a team perspective we have vastly improved our coaching, training, quality of training facilities, player welfare, player accommodation and player transport. These facets are all important in order to retain and attract good players. If we had not improved these areas, attracting star players would continue to be a challenge.

"From a club perspective, we have doubled our sponsorship revenue, exceeded last year's membership and our crowds are up by nearly 50% on BBL02."

The Thunder will play their final game of BBL03 against the Sydney Sixers on January 25 against at ANZ Stadium.

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth