Sydney Thunder fans can sleep well knowing that local hero Usman Khawaja will be the club’s new captain. Khawaja takes over the job from Callum Ferguson, who was not offered a contract with the Thunder for this season.
Khawaja has been at the club since BBL|01 and has become a favourite of the Thunder fans. In recent years, cricket fans all over Australia have also warmed to Khawaja and have seen a more open and honest side to the former test number three.
He was the clear choice for the Sydney Thunder as the most experienced and successful local batsman in the line-up. His statistics over his BBL journey have also shown why he is such a good choice as captain. In 57 innings, he has scored 1718 runs at an average of almost 34.
While Khawaja still has test ambitions, he will undoubtedly still play an important role for the Thunder and lead the side well as he has done for Queensland over the last few years.
After his appointment, Khawaja spoke to the media about why he is so happy to take this job.
The Thunder are based at the Sydney Showgrounds, which means a lot to the man who grew up very close to the area.
“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,” Khawaja said.
Michael Klinger, the Head of Male Cricket at Cricket NSW, spoke on Khawaja being appointed captain.
“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.”
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COVID will once again play a huge role within the Australian summer, with talk already that the season may have to be rescheduled. Khawaja reflected on how this makes life harder for the cricketers.
“It does make it harder because you don’t have a finish line in sight,” he said.
“When you don’t have a set start date or schedule in front of you, it’s harder to work backwards. Last year took a toll mentally on the boys. There is definitely bubble fatigue.”
Khawaja went on to talk about what he can do as a captain to combat this fatigue in his players.
“As a captain, you have to be a bit more flexible and understand that you can’t just do things the way you used to.
“You have to be really adaptable with how you train and what you train. If certain players are getting tired, you have to give them time.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to get the players out there in the best condition.”
Last year was a mixed one for the Thunder. The team finished third on the ladder, yet lost their knockout final to the Brisbane Heat. Khawaja reflected on how he felt about BBL|10 now.
“Last year was disappointing; I thought we had a team to at least make the finals if not win the finals,” he said.
“I thought we had a great team, [but] things just didn’t fall into place, and the timing was off. It was disappointing, but obviously, the bones are still there this year, and Alex Hales is big for us.”
Whether the Australian T20 World Cup players will get back in time for the first test against Afghanistan is still unknown. This could leave open some slots in Australia’s batting line-up.
Khawaja was clear that his goal is to get back into the Australian set up.
“Over the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of work batting in all forms of the game. I think people don’t really see that because it is behind the scenes and in the nets,” he said.
“I want to play for Australia again. That’s 100 per cent on my radar. But right now, Queensland stuff is the next thing I know I’m doing. I said it a long time ago: don’t look too far ahead, it doesn’t end well.”
Ollie Davies and Tanveer Sanga are two youngsters for the Sydney Thunder that have grabbed the attention of many. Khawaja is excited to see how the young players develop going forward.
“For me, I grew up in New South Wales, I played all my junior cricket in New South Wales,” the captain reflected.
“It’s nice for me to get back to NSW cricket and Sydney Thunder to give something back to NSW cricket. The young guys will be the future of Australian cricket in a lot of respects. That’s the one thing that’s really exciting as a senior player.”
The Sydney Thunder still need to fill four spots on their roster for the upcoming season. Usman Khawaja will lead his men into their first game on the December 6 against the Brisbane Heat.
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