The Courier-Mail

Khawaja’s the Blue we just can’t boo

- BEN DORRIES

NEW Bulls captain Usman Khawaja wears a sky blue jersey at State of Origin time but that is not unusual in the changing landscape of Queensland cricket.

The Queensland dressingro­om has plenty of former Sydneyside­rs who have embraced a better life north of the border, including new coach Phil Jaques and batsman Peter Forrest.

Khawaja, with nine Tests to his name, sees no problem with being Captain Maroon in cricket season yet cheering for the Blues during the NRL’s showpiece.

“It’s called State of Origin, not State of Wherever You Are Now,’’ Khawaja said with a laugh.

“I’m pretty sure Phil Jaques and Peter Forrest feel the same in that regard.

“I never thought I would move away from NSW but I was excited to get the opportunit­y in Queensland and now I’m ready for the massive responsibi­lity of captaining the Bulls.’’

With James Hopes stepping aside from the captaincy, the Bulls will be left in good hands under the guidance of 28-year-old Khawaja who is no man’s fool.

The left-handed batsman was the youngest first-grade captain for Sydney club Randwick, at age 20, and was impressive as Australia A captain on a recent tour of India.

The qualified commercial pilot will not be flying by the seat of his pants as he leads the Bulls into battle for the first time this summer.

“I want the Bulls players to enjoy their cricket and for us to produce as many Australian players as we can,’’ Khawaja said.

“If we can achieve that and win a few trophies along the way, I will be very happy.

“Away from the field, I have my commercial pilot’s licence but I have lost my instrument rating so I don’t get to fly much these days.

“But I still have a lot of fun at home with the flight simulator.’’

In a new era of opportunit­y for Australian cricketers, Khawaja admitted he was miffed to miss out on Australia’s ODI squad which is playing in England.

But he is in contention for one of the Test batting slots vacated by the retired Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers and the axed Shane Watson.

Khawaja is one of a trio of Queensland batsmen including Joe Burns and Chris Lynn who are vying for spots in the first Test against New Zealand at the Gabba, starting on November 5.

“It’s a great time for all the youngsters in Australian cricket and blokes like me,’’ Khawaja said. “At the end of the day, if you are scoring runs then everything else will take care of itself.’’

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