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Brisbane Heat sign charismatic Australia batter Khawaja on a four-year contract

Usman Khawaja

Brisbane, June 29 (UITV/IANS) Big Bash League (BBL) side Brisbane Heat have completed one of the biggest signings of the season, bringing on board charismatic batter Usman Khawaja on a four-year contract on Wednesday.

Khawaja had earlier announced his exit from the Sydney Thunder, where he was a foundation player, in February, as he reportedly wanted to be closer to his family in Brisbane.

Khawaja is Sydney Thunder's all-time leading runs-scorer with 1,818 runs and a career strike-rate of 129.85. Khawaja has played 59 BBL games out of an overall T20 career playing record of 107 games, including nine T20 Internationals for Australia, and playing stints in Pakistan, England, and the Indian Premier League.

He is the 11th player announced for the Heat ahead of the BBL-12 season.

Khawaja, currently preparing in Galle for the opening day of Test match action against Sri Lanka -- his 50th for Australia -- said his decision to sign a long-term contract with Brisbane Heat had only come after much soul-searching.

"I always thought I would finish off as a Thunder player, but it is funny how things change," he told brisbaneheat.com.au.

"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 Queensland and now I am one.

"I have been loosely tied with the Heat through my Queensland roles for several years, and so I am looking forward to the challenge of trying something new by joining them now.

"I do love playing in the BBL and now I am with the Heat for the coming years, I am very excited," he said.

Queensland Cricket and Brisbane Heat CEO Terry Svenson said Brisbane fans would feel very assured with Khawaja's signing.

"I'm sure our fans have nothing but respect for what Usman has achieved in the game with the Thunder and will be thrilled to see him in teal for this next phase of his career," he said.

"He's a skillful and proven performer in T20 cricket, a highly-regarded leader on the field, and an innovative and inclusive individual away from cricket. Having Usman as a leader with both Queensland Cricket and the Heat delivers benefits across the game, both on and off the field."

The Heat have so far secured secured 11 players, with a further seven signings to be completed including three overseas players from the upcoming international player draft.