Last season's Thunder were more a gentle rumble in the distance than a clap from the hammer of Thor himself. Despite recruiting several big-name players they couldn't put a good enough sequence of wins together and ultimately missed out on the playoffs.
This year they have made substantial changes including to many of those well-known stars. Shane Watson has finally called time on his BBL career. The burly all-rounder had a slow start to the 2018/19 season before hitting what would be his final century in Australian domestic cricket against The Heat. His professionalism, experience and consistency will be sorely missed by the Thunder who will also have to make do without his opening partner, Jos Buttler who is unavailable due to international commitments with England. In their place comes Alex Hales who disregarded from the England set-up after failing a cocaine test and Usman Khawaja who has been replaced in the Test team by Marbus Labuschagne meaning that he is likely to be available for the duration of the tournament. Both men have points to prove and runs to score in order to get back into the good books of their respective selectors.
Of players who have made more than 30 BBL appearances only Chris Lynn and D'Arcy Short have a better ratio of 6s to innings than Shane Watson
Taking regular wickets was a major concern for the Thunder last year with only Daniel Sams and Fawad Ahmed making it into double figures for the season. Fawad has since departed for Perth alongside Chris Jordan who played the latter half of BBL 08 in Sydney while Pat Cummins has ruled himself out of this year's BBL entirely due to commitments with Australia. In their place, Thunder have signed South African all-rounder Chris Morris who has developed a reputation as a specialist death bowler with a very accurate yorker. Chris Tremain has also made the trip from defending champions Melbourne Renegades to add depth to the fast bowling stocks while the Thunder will continue to have the experienced Gurinder Sandhu and left-armer Sam Rainbird to call upon.
The key to the overall balance of the Thunder's squad lies in the triple-axis of all-rounders in their middle order. Daniel Sams had a breakthrough year in BBL 08 with both bat and ball and given his fairly low price was a coach's dream in the BBL fantasy game. Chris Green was highly economical with the ball often helping to limit opposition sides push in the powerplay while also adding useful runs down the order. With those 2 at 6 and 7 and Morris at 8 it gives the Thunder squad a nice balance and will perhaps allow them to take a bit of a gamble with an attacking spinner to take those middle over wickets that so often win games.
In regards those spinners, the big talk has been around the acquisition of 18-year-old Tanveer Sangha who is highly regarded by many in Australian cricket having made an impact as a 17-year-old in the U19 side this year. He certainly gives the ball a good rip but whether he is ready to step up to this level remains to be seen. The Thunder also have Jono Cook available to them for this season. The 30-year-old ACT spinner made his debut in the BBL last year and showed some promise by snaring 8 wickets in 7 innings. Filling Fawad Ahmed's shoes will be the task of these 2 men and their relative success will go along way to determining how the Thunder's season pans out.
Elsewhere Alex Ross has joined from the Brisbane Heat where his chances of play were likely to once again be limited. He will have the experienced Callum Ferguson for company in the middle order alongside one of the up and coming stars of Australian cricket Jason Sangha. The Thunder used 4 keepers across last year's tournament but with Buttler unavailable and Baxter Holt released the likelihood is that youngster Matthew Gilkes who has recently broken into the NSW state team in both first-class and List A formats will be given a chance to shine.