Sydney Thunder have suffered a blow to their Big Bash League campaign just days from the opening match, with key batsman Usman Khawaja suffering a season-ending injury during training on Tuesday night.
He was taking a routine catch near the boundary when he landed awkwardly, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. Thunder officials say he is looking at a minimum of six months on the sidelines.
Khawaja, who made his Test debut in 2011 and played the last of his nine matches for Australia in last year’s Ashes tour of England, was hoping for a big summer to catapult him back into the view of selectors.
Thunder players rallied around the injured batsman. Captain Mike Hussey led the charge, lamenting Khawaja’s setback as a “big loss for our team”.
“It’s so disappointing,” Hussey said. “He was really primed for this tournament. It makes you realise and appreciate how lucky we are to be playing together and that you’ve got to enjoy every day because it can be taken away from you very quickly.”
Fast bowler Pat Cummins said Khawaja’s absence from the squad would also be felt off the field.
“He obviously scores really valuable runs at the top of the order, but even more than that he’s great to have around the group,” he said. “He’s always one to play a practical joke and keep the mood really calm.”
With Khawaja’s injury leaving a hole in the Thunder’s batting line-up, the side’s younger stars are now vying for a last-minute call-up to the opening clash against Brisbane Heat on Sunday night.
Among them is 21-year-old Kurtis Patterson, who, as an 11th-hour replacement for Nic Maddinson, scored an impressive century for NSW in last week’s Sheffield Shield clash against Queensland. Although he picked up a “a little niggle” in the shield match, Patterson said he was “fighting hard to be ready for Sunday”.
Patterson conceded his performances had been haphazard since blazing onto the cricket scene in 2011, when at 18 years old he became the youngest batsman to score a century in a shield match.
“It was certainly a very inconsistent year for me and it’s something I’m looking to improve on a lot this year,” he said. “Last year I was probably overly aggressive too early in a lot of my innings, which led to my downfall.”
With the recruitment of legendary all-rounder Jacques Kallis, alongside stalwart Hussey, this year’s rejuvenated Thunder squad was a wellspring of knowledge for the team’s younger players, Patterson said.
“[Kallis] is probably statistically the best cricketer to play the game. He’s obviously got a bit of cricket intelligence up his sleeve, so it will be great to have him around to pick his brain.”
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