Squad: Shane Watson (c), Fawad Ahmed, Aiden Blizzard, Patrick Cummins, Jake Doran, Ryan Gibson, Chris Green, Usman Khawaja, Nathan McAndrew, Alister McDermott, Clint McKay, Eoin Morgan (OS), Arjun Nair, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer, Andre Russell (OS), Gurinder Sandu, James Vince (OS)
Ins: Eoin Morgan (OS), Ryan Gibson (full contract), Nathan McAndrew (full contract), Arjun Nair, James Vince (OS)
Outs: Jacques Kallis (OS), Ahillen Beadle, Henry Nicholls (OS), Michael Hussey, Andrew McDonald
Master Blaster: Usman Khawaja ($157,300)
Some questioned whether Usman Khawaja had the stroke play to succeed in T20 cricket. Boy oh boy did the elegant left-hander silence those doubters last year. Khawaja batted four times in BBL|05 and posted totals of 109no, 62, 104no and 70 for 345 runs at 172.50. His second century, against the Adelaide Strikers, propelled the Sydney Thunder into their maiden BBL final before his 70 in the competition’s showpiece match provided the backbone of the successful run chase in the season finale. While Khawaja might be the most expensive BBL Fantasy player, if his form is anything like it was 12 months ago he’s a must-have in any team. One thing to be wary of is his availability, which is likely to open up after the Test series against Pakistan is complete.
Strike Weapon: Andre Russell ($126,200)
He can bat. He can bowl. He can field. Andre Russell can do (pretty much) anything a cricket field, and for that reason he is considered one of the best T20 players in the world. Last summer the Jamaican was the joint second-highest wicket-taker with 16 wickets in 10 matches, equal with Adelaide’s Adil Rashid and two behind Thunder teammate Clint McKay. Capable of bowling at 150kph, Russell is one the fastest bowlers in the KFC Big Bash League, and throw in his explosive exploits with the bat, he’s the reason why so many of his peers consider him the finest player in the competition.
Young Gun: Jake Doran ($20,000)
The only wicketkeeper on the books at the Thunder to date, Jake Doran looks set to get plenty of game time this season. The 20-year-old is Tasmania’s first-choice Sheffield Shield gloveman and that experience will hold him in good stead for the frantic action of the BBL. With a top-score of 66 this Shield season, his batting is coming along after setting record after record in the junior ranks. Doran has played just one game for the Thunder – in January 2015 – but he’ll likely play a big part in his side’s title defence this summer and could be a handy addition to your Fantasy XI.
Overseas Impact: Eoin Morgan ($65,000)
While ‘Dre-Russ’ will take a majority of the spotlight at the Thunder, don’t discard England’s limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan. On his day Morgan is just as destructive as Russell and is perhaps the best exponent of the reverse-sweep in the world. He’s no newbie to the Thunder setup having played eight matches across two stints at Spotless Stadium, but will want to make amends for his last season in electric green that yielded just 41 runs in four innings. The rubber-wristed left-hander will depart midway through the tournament due to international commitments (to be replaced by countryman James Vince) so be sure not to miss out on him.
Surprise Packet: Arjun Nair ($20,000)
The mystery spinner who modelled his action from YouTube vision of West Indies and Melbourne Renegades star Sunil Narine could have a huge impact on the BBL this summer. Like Narine, he uses subtle finger spin each way with just enough movment to dupe opposing batsmen. The 18-year-old is also an accomplished batsman, scoring 67 against Victoria in the Matador Cup for the Cricket Australia XI this year. Veteran leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed is the Thunder’s premier slow bowler, but should a second spinner be required don’t be surprised if Nair gets a call up.
Fantasy Bargain: Kurtis Patterson ($30,000)
Having narrowly missed out on Test selection, the stylish left-hander is now fully available for the Thunder in BBL|06. Patterson played only one match last season but is set for a much more prominent role with the departure of inspirational leader Mike Hussey and an early-season injury to new skipper Shane Watson. In the Matador Cup this October, he averaged a tick under 50 and guided the NSW Blues to back-to-back titles with an undefeated 77 in the final against Queensland. His stroke play and shot selection have improved significantly in the past 18 months to the point where he’s become a middle-order rock for the Blues. Let’s see if he can transfer that form and ability in the T20 format.