Queensland will enter the domestic cricket season with the almost unthinkable: a coach and captain from their biggest rivals NSW.
Usman Khawaja was on Friday announced as the Bulls’ new captain, replacing veteran all-rounder James Hopes, who stood down as skipper at the end of last season but will play on this summer.
Khawaja’s coach in Queensland is his former NSW teammate Phil Jaques, appointed in May following the resignation of Bulls legend Stuart Law.
A Khawaja-Jaques leadership combination is a far cry from the dyed-in-the-wool Queensland duo they’ve replaced.
Pakistan-born but raised in Sydney, Khawaja started his first-class career with the Blues as a 21-year-old in 2008.
The elegant top-order batsman went on to become the first Muslim to represent Australia in Test cricket three years later and was well poised for a long stint in the baggy green.
However, a lean run of form not only led to his axing from the Australian side, but prompted his move north for a fresh start in Brisbane with Queensland.
The shift proved a good one and after racking up Sheffield Shield runs, he returned to the Australian side before being dropped again.
Currently captaining Australia A on their tour of India, Khawaja is being talked about again for a Test recall given the Aussies’ batting fragility in the Ashes series in England.
“Usman has shown his class and ability on numerous occasions on the field since moving to Queensland a few seasons ago,” Queensland Cricket chairman Jim Holding said.
“But he has also demonstrated his maturity and vision to many of us away from the playing arena.
“He is an impressive thinker about the game and we feel that he commands the respect of the group through his words and deeds.
“The Board believes Usman will complement the dedication and expertise of Queensland coach Phil Jaques.”