David Warner is returning to the Big Bash League with the Sydney Thunder in Cricket Australia’s biggest coup for the competition in years.
Warner ended months of speculation around his involvement in the tournament on Sunday, announcing a two-year deal with the Thunder.
One of the most marketable players in the country, Warner has not featured in the BBL since the competition’s third edition in December 2013.
In the time since, his decision not to play has remained a point of contention with CA wanting to have the best talent available.
That issue has come to a head in recent months, with officials desperate to bring the tournament back to its past glory after two difficult summers during the pandemic.
Warner’s participation has been at the centre of talks between he and CA ever since he returned from the tour of Sri Lanka, with chief executive Nick Hockley heavily involved.
The Thunder deal came after Warner was also being linked to a move to the UAE’s Twenty20 league, which has been able to offer big money to overseas stars.
But Warner said on Sunday he was aware of the importance of playing in the BBL for the good of the game in Australia.
“I’m really excited to get back to the Big Bash with the club where I started,” Warner said.
“I care deeply about the game, and I am conscious that the conditions that I enjoy as a professional cricketer have largely come from other senior players who have come before me.
“That is how the game is structured and I understand that my contribution to the future of the BBL will hopefully benefit the next generation of players long after I am retired.”
Warner will be available for up to five matches this season plus finals, with Australia’s multi-format stars given clear air in January to feature while there is no international cricket.
The opener has played just three matches in BBL history, two for the Thunder in 2011-12 and 2013-14, as well as one for the Sydney Sixers in 2012-13.
He scored 101no in the tournament’s inaugural game, while also scoring 50 in his match for the Sixers.
Talk of Warner’s return had also centred around the possible lifting of a lifetime team leadership ban, imposed by CA after the ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
The Thunder said on Sunday that no decision had yet been made on their captaincy, after Usman Khawaja moved north to the Brisbane Heat.
Warner’s return comes in the same week Marnus Labuschagne signed with the Heat, while Travis Head inked a new deal with Adelaide Strikers.
Steve Smith’s availability remains up in the air as he considers whether to play for the Sixers, while quicks Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have previously stated they want to rest their bodies and not play.
Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland and Cameron Green are the other centrally-contracted players without deals for the BBL season.