He grew up in the heart of the Thunder Nation and now Usman Khawaja has been named as the tenth ever captain of Sydney Thunder ahead of their KFC BBL|11 campaign.
The three-format Australian international and captain of Queensland’s reigning Sheffield Shield winning team has been with Thunder from the outset of the Big Bash League and is the club’s highest ever run scorer and longest serving player.
Khawaja’s passion for the Thunder and the Western Sydney region is palpable.
“It’s a great privilege to be captain of any team, but for me especially being captain of Sydney Thunder probably means a little more,” Khawaja said.
“I grew up in Western Sydney, about ten minutes from where the Thunder play at Sydney Showground Stadium, and even though I now live in Queensland I have never forgotten where I come from.
“The majority of my close friends are from Western Sydney and I have that strong emotional connection with club and the region. It’s very close to my heart.”
The Pakistan-born lefthander paid tribute to departing Thunder captain Callum Ferguson and said he wouldn’t be doing things a whole lot differently to his predecessor in BBL|11.
“Cal was awesome as a bloke and teammate – he will be missed amongst the group here for sure,” Khawaja said.
“Me being captain, it’s not about reinventing the wheel. Everyone has their own way of captaining a team but having captained various sides for Queensland and Australia A for a few years I think it’s important to be who you are.
“I never change who I am just because I am captain. I am usually a bit of a jokester around the team and that doesn’t change as a captain. I know when to deliver a message that is serious and when we can be a little more relaxed. For me it’s business as usual.”
And if the 34-year-old has it his way, ‘BAU’ this summer may just include something just a little less usual.
“It’s been five years since we won the BBL and that’s what it’s about, winning titles,” he said.
“If I can help us get there, that’s the biggest goal for a captain, supporting every player to get the best out of themselves so that a team is in a position to win. We are building towards that.”
Cricket NSW’s Head of Male Cricket, Michael Klinger, himself a former BBL stalwart for the Perth Scorchers and coach of the Melbourne Renegades, said no one was ‘more Thunder’ than Khawaja.
“Usman is a foundation player for the Thunder and grew up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney,” Klinger said.
“He is tactically astute and recently captained a successful Queensland Bulls team to win the Sheffield Shield against NSW.
“He has the highest respect from his fellow teammates and coaches and I know Trevor Bayliss is excited about Usman captaining instinctively on the field and using all of his experience to lead the Thunder to a successful season.”
Sydney Thunder BBL Squad
Head Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Assistant Coach: Shawn Bradstreet, Chandika Hathurusinghe
Contracted for BBL|11: Usman Khawaja (C), Jonathan Cook, Ben Cutting, Ollie Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matthew Gilkes, Chris Green, Alex Hales, Baxter Holt, Nathan McAndrew, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain