Big Bash: Sydney Thunder in rags to riches turnaround
From a record-run of 18 consecutive defeats to BBL title...
By Richard V Isaacs
Last Updated: 25/01/16 6:59am
Bottom. Bottom. Bottom. Second bottom. Played 31, Won 5, Lost 25, and one no-result - the life and times of the Sydney Thunder franchise in the previous four editions of the Big Bash League.
Oh, and don't forget the record-run of 18 consecutive defeats!
If you had drawn the hapless Thunder in your office sweepstakes, you would have been tempted to screw your little bit of paper up and wave farewell to your hard-earned cash.
The story of the men in light green is one of Hollywood proportions. From nowhere and utter laughing stock to champions in the space of 12 months - not only in the men's game but the women's too.
So where has this turnaround come from? A positive mind set? A change in approach? And a team full of experience which rubbed off of the youngsters in the line-up? Definitely.
Given that the Thunder were the oldest team ever to play in a final anywhere in the T20 world since its inception in 2003, with an average age of 33 years and 52 days, you can see that age is no barrier.
They also have benefited from the arrival of Paddy Upton as coach ahead of BBL04 - the man who helped India to become world champions in 2011, South Africa become world No 1 in all formats, and coached in the Indian Premier League for a number of years with Rajasthan Royals.
Their revival is no aberration with 40-year-old 'Mr Cricket', Mike Hussey, as captain - although he admits himself he doesn't like the moniker - and Upton as coach.
A turnaround has definitely occurred in the batting department as, despite the Thunder previously having the likes of Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Martin Guptill, Eoin Morgan, Chris Rogers and David Warner in their team, they only managed to score at 6.98 runs per over in the previous four seasons - by far the lowest of all teams.
They also scored the fewest runs (3,730) and averaged the lowest of the eight teams (20.29). But this season, the Thunder featured a team in the final with 1,293 international caps between them, 50,917 runs, 100 centuries and 1,052 wickets to their name.
In BBL05 their run-rate in the 10 games played stands at 8.55 runs per over - only Melbourne Renegades achieved more at 8.79 and their batting average was 30.10, one of just two teams to reach a 30-plus average, along with the Strikers.
Not only that, but the Thunder's bowling, which was never previously much of a concern with players like Ajantha Mendis and Dirk Nannes in their ranks, took wickets at 23.00 each and conceded at just 8.20 runs per over.
It certainly helps having a man who is averaging 141 in his last nine innings across all formats in Usman Khawaja in your team. He closed the BBL season having scored 345 runs over four games at a strike-rate of 163.50.
Also, captain Hussey is the fourth leading run-scorer in BBL05, and Thunder had two of the top three wicket-takers in Clint McKay (18) and Andre Russell (16).
And the telling factor maybe? Not a complete reliance upon overseas imports. While Jacques Kallis and Russell certainly played their part, the likes of Khawaja, Hussey, McKay and youngsters Chris Green and Gurinder Sandhu excelled.
The same could be said for the women's team too, who lifted the inaugural WBBL with a tense three-wicket success over Sydney Sixers earlier in the day.
They had West Indian Stafanie Taylor in their ranks but she was the only one as they relied upon for their runs. Skipper Alex Blackwell (410 runs at 45.55) and Rachael Haynes (350 runs at 21.87) were key contributors.
Rene Farrell (26 wickets at 5.50 runs per over), Nicola Carey (16 wickets at 5.70) and the winner of Young Gun of the WBBL, 17-year-old left-arm-seamer Lauren Cheatle (18 wickets at 5.81), led the way with the ball.
One thing is for sure, no-one will be laughing at the Sydney Thunder any more. And those who did throw their sweepstakes slip away will be digging around the litter to find it.
Goodbye hapless Thunder. Hello happy Thunder!