Moving from NSW to Queensland changed my life: Usman Khawaja
Usman Khawaja's life and career have headed upwards since he moved to Brisbane in 2012. @Getty

Usman Khawaja, the Australia batsman, has revealed how the tough decision to move from his home state New South Wales to Queensland in 2012 turned out to be career and life-shifting.

Writing on The Players Voice website, the 31-year-old who is currently sidelined from cricket on account of knee surgery stated that the decision to uproot himself from Sydney to shift westwards to Queensland was a move taken out of frustration at a time when he was unhappy with his game. It also meant taking a pay cut, but Khawaja insists the move had nothing to do with money, but rather about “rediscovering my love for cricket”.

“Sometimes, the hardest decisions in your life turn out to be your best,” wrote Khawaja. “You can’t know it at the time. You’re in the moment, racked with doubt, and your mind is taking you in a thousand different directions all at once. But, over time, you get perspective. And the very thing you dreaded becomes the thing that makes you. I see that very clearly in my decision to move from NSW to Queensland in 2012.

“I didn’t want to leave Sydney at the time. Since we arrived as a family from Islamabad when I was five, Sydney had been home. All my friends, family and teammates were there. It was pretty much all I knew,” he wrote. “But I’d reached a point in my life where I wasn’t particularly happy. And I certainly wasn’t enjoying my cricket. It wasn’t specifically because of NSW or my teammates, it was me. I owe Cricket NSW a lot. They developed me, brought me through the first-class system and ultimately into the Test side.

Since moving to Queensland six seasons ago, Usman Khawaja has scored all seven of his Test hundreds.
Since moving to Queensland six seasons ago, Usman Khawaja has scored all seven of his Test hundreds. @Getty

“But for whatever reason it just wasn’t happening for me, and I needed a change. I knew if I was to grow as a cricketer, I had to leave. Boof Lehmann was the Queensland coach at the time and I liked his laid-back approach to life. One of my good mates from NSW, Peter Forrest, was also up here and so was another good friend, Ben Cutting. They really talked up the place and made me feel like I could play the way I wanted under Boof.

“I made the decision to make the move. It was quite a late call so it meant taking a fairly hefty pay cut. But this move had nothing to do with money. It was about rediscovering my love for cricket.”

Khawaja decided to leave NSW after scoring 2222 runs at an average of 48.30 in 30 first-class games, to go with 497 in 12 one-day appearances at 41.41. Having loaded his car up, Khawaja drove to Brisbane where the start, in his own words, was not the brightest.

“It was quite lonely at the start. I spent my first three months on my own in an apartment in Kangaroo Point. I would pretty much go to training, come home and then wait for someone to be free to hang out with me,” he wrote. “It was like, ‘Does anyone want to do anything? Guys. Guys?’ But, bit by bit, things got better. Ben bought a house with an extra room in it, which I took over. I started enjoying my cricket again. The runs followed and so did the opportunities, like the Queensland captaincy and Aussie recalls.”

Since moving to Queensland six seasons ago, he has made 1854 runs in 23 first-class matches for them, at an average of 51.50 with five centuries. In 30 List A games, Khawaja averages 60.31 with four hundreds and 11 fifties. During this time he also barnstormed the Big Bash League and has enjoyed success for Australia in Tests. Having played six Tests in 2011, Khawaja was recalled to Australia’s Test squad in 2013 and has since averaged 46.63 with all seven of his hundreds coming in this period.

He also made his ODI debut after scoring runs for Queensland, scoring 469 runs at 31.26 in 17 innings. Most recently, he was Man of the Match in the drawn Dubai Test last month after scores of 85 and 141 before being sidelined with a meniscal tear on his left knee. He faces a lay-off period of between four to six weeks.

In his column, Khawaja also stated the importance that the shift to Brisbane had on his personal life. While sidelined with an ACL tear earlier on, he called over his state mates Jack Wildermuth and Josh Dascombe to play FIFA on the game screen, and that was when he met his future wife Rachael whom he termed, along with his family, as “the most important people in terms of helping me get to where I am, staying grounded and being grateful for everything I have achieved”.