Khawaja confirms Heat switch after Thunder exit

The Brisbane Heat sign Usman Khawaja on a four-year deal, with more domestic player moves expected ahead of the upcoming international draft

The Brisbane Heat have confirmed one of the biggest local player moves of the KFC BBL off-season, luring star opener Usman Khawaja on a massive four-year deal.

Khawaja announced his exit from the Sydney Thunder, where he was a foundation player, in February, citing a desire to be closer to his family in Brisbane.

The Heat farewelled club great Chris Lynn in May and have been quick to swoop in to sign Khawaja in his place, although it's likely the left-hander will only be available for the second half of the upcoming season due to Test duty.

Khawaja will be 39 by the time his four-year deal comes to an end and he has matched Melbourne Stars skipper Glenn Maxwell in signing a contract this year until the end of BBL|15.

"I always thought I would finish off as a Thunder player, but it is funny how things change," Khawaja said.

"I've said it for a long time that Brisbane is home, Queensland is home, and to be here, captain of Queensland, and now joining the Heat – it is really exciting.

"I know I will be playing in front of my family, and a home crowd, when I am at the Gabba or Metricon Stadium with the Heat. I love the Thunder and the Thunder Nation, but at the same time, this is a change that comes at the right time.

"It wasn't an easy decision, it was a very tough one, but the timing just feels right. I like to say I used to be an honorary Queenslander and now I am one."

While Khawaja's move to the Heat has left a hole in the Thunder's list, the chances of Lynn heading the other way appear slim, with the competition's all-time leading run-scorer not discussed in any Thunder list management meetings so far.

Image Id: 6CC7A0B5EAA9492CB35D8D81F86A8575 Image Caption: Khawaja puts pen to paper // Supplied

The Hobart Hurricanes and Perth Scorchers have also indicated Lynn is not in their plans for this season.

Khawaja is the 11th player to be contracted by the Heat for BBL|12 and the club will now turn their attention to the new international player draft later in the year.

Heat head coach Wade Seccombe said last week they will look to use their platinum pick on an impactful player who has won tournaments in the past.

"That could be a top-order bat, a pace bowler, a spinner, a middle-order finisher or an allrounder with our first pick … we will be looking at utilising our draft position to maximise our recruiting return," he said.

Khawaja is the first significant local player move of the off-season following the lifting of the contracting embargo last week.

The likes of Hobart Hurricanes batter Mac Wright and Sydney Thunder duo Chris Tremain and Jono Cook are currently unsigned, while the Melbourne Renegades have indicated their interest in veteran batter Jon Wells and fast bowler Tom Rogers.

Speaking earlier this year, Khawaja said the decision to opt out of the final year of his deal with the Thunder was "the toughest call I've made as a cricketer", saying the move was purely motivated by his young family.

'I hated the maroon': How Khawaja changed his Origin team

"The players, the coaching and support staff, and the club's supporters mean so much to me," Khawaja, who labelled himself 'a proud westie', said.

"However, it is for family reasons, and while I'm leaving, people who know me realise a big part of my heart will always remain with Thunder.

"I don't want people to think I've cut my ties with Sydney Thunder because I'll always care about the club, the players, the entire organisation.

"A part of that is because I believe I helped shape Thunder from the start. In many ways Sydney Thunder is, to me, like a baby I've watched grow and develop."

The 35-year-old had been at the Thunder since the BBL's inception in 2011 and has scored a club-high 1818 runs in 59 games.

Brisbane Heat BBL|12 squad (so far): Xavier Bartlett, James Bazely, Max Bryant, Sam Heazlett, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Kuhnemann, Michael Neser, Jimmy Peirson, Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, Jack Wildermuth