Usman Khawaja has taken another significant step towards becoming a one-club KFC Big Bash League player by extending his deal with Sydney Thunder to run for the next four years.
The 32-year-old lefthander, who played against Melbourne Stars alongside David Warner and Chris Gayle in Thunder’s inaugural BBL match in 2011, remains the club's only foundation player.
In 25 BBL matches he’s amassed 992 runs, hit a highest score of 109 not out and boasts a strike-rate of 131.39. Thunder coach Shane Bond described the international’s importance to the squad as "massive".
Khawaja, who was raised in Thunder Nation’s heartland of Sydney’s western suburbs, said it wasn't a hard decision for him to remain in the club’s colours.
“It’s close to my heart, I love playing at Sydney Thunder,” he said. “I love coming back to Sydney – my family is here – but it’s very special to play cricket and to have our families around after a game.”
Khawaja said he was also pleased as someone who grew up in the “heart of western Sydney” to represent the multicultural communities who call the area home.
“That’s very close to my heart,” said Khawaja of the community Thunder represent. “Western Sydney is made up of many different cultures – it’s a melting pot – and I believe we embrace that in our team.
“We have a lot of guys in the squad who come from different cultures, and I think that's the beauty of our club.
“We represent such a large area… such a diverse amount of people… it’s great to be a part of that. [That inclusiveness] is what I stand for.”
Khawaja, who was a driving force in Thunder’s BBL|05 title victory, said he had high hopes for the club’s BBL|09 campaign under Bond.
“I’m very confident,” he said. “I get along well with ‘Bondy’, we have a very similar outlook about the cricket.
“He was an exceptional cricketer in his day, and I like that the guys in the Queensland squad who were involved with him at Brisbane Heat only have good things to say about him.
“It’s important to have good people supporting the team, doing their best for the club. When things are done well you hope they turn into results, and results turn into a premiership.”
Bond, who is preparing for his second season as Thunder’s Head Coach, said he felt ecstatic that Khawaja had signed on.
“He’s a key signing for us. I’m thrilled because he’s been a Thunder man from the outset; is a great player and has an amazing record in the Big Bash,” said Bond.
“Usman is an important part of my long-term plans, I want to keep him at Sydney Thunder until the end of his career.
“He’s a highly respected player – the boys love him – he’s a genuine leader, has many outstanding qualities and I respect that he tells you what he thinks because that’s right up my alley.”
Thunder is set to open its ninth BBL campaign against the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba on 17 December, before playing its first game in Sydney on 2 January.