Khawaja and Hauritz join Queensland
The exodus from New South Wales has continued with Usman Khawaja and Nathan Hauritz both confirming they have signed with Queensland. Their departures follow Thursday's news that Phillip Hughes was moving to South Australia, further depleting a New South Wales line-up that had already been hit by the retirements of Simon Katich this month and Phil Jaques at the end of last summer.
Khawaja and Hauritz both held Cricket Australia contracts last year but were cut last week as the list of national contracts was slashed from 25 to 17. The influx of former international players - Hughes, Doug Bollinger and Steven Smith also lost their national deals - has left the Blues juggling their list as some of their players have looked interstate for other offers.
Although Queensland won the Sheffield Shield last season, the presence of Khawaja will be a major boost to their batting. The Bulls can now boast two men on the fringes of Test selection, Khawaja and Peter Forrest, as well as two of the most promising young batsmen on the domestic scene in Australia, Joe Burns and Chris Lynn.
Khawaja, who is currently playing for Derbyshire, is expected to link up with the Bulls in September ahead of what could be an early start to their title defence. Khawaja averages 80.80 in four first-class matches at the Gabba, and although it can be a challenging venue for batsmen, he can take inspiration from the significant improvement in Forrest's results when he moved from Sydney to Brisbane last year.
"The decision to join Queensland has been the toughest decision of my career, particularly because I had to leave my home, my mates, my family, and my clubs of Cricket New South Wales and Randwick Petersham," Khawaja said. "I owe a great deal to where I am, and what I've achieved, to Cricket NSW and the 'Randy-Petes'.
"I'm extremely excited about joining Queensland and taking my cricket to the next level. I have a big role and it's a perfect environment for me to grow as a player and a person. Darren [Lehmann, the Queensland coach] and Trevor Hohns have meticulously crafted a team culture that is welcoming, yet very demanding."
Lehmann said he was impressed that Khawaja had been willing to move out of his comfort zone to embrace a new challenge.
"The easy decision for Usman would have been to stay where he was, but to his credit, he got in touch with us to see whether there was an opportunity with the Bulls to take his game to a new level, and for that stance, I congratulate him," Lehmann said. "It was a mature cricket decision, based around joining a successful group and I'm very excited about him coming into our culture, developing his skills and growing as a player."
Khawaja, 25, has played six Tests for Australia, the last of which was the loss to New Zealand in Hobart in December. Hauritz, 30, was a regular member of Australia's Test side until the 2010-11 Ashes, but the emergence of Nathan Lyon and a serious shoulder injury to Hauritz last year has left him adrift from international cricket, and he did not play a game for Australia over the past year despite holding a national contract.
Originally from Queensland, where he played 28 first-class matches before moving to New South Wales in 2006-07, Hauritz began the gradual journey home last summer when he played for the Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League. Although he will be battling with the promising young legspinner Cameron Boyce for a place in the side, Hauritz said the opportunity to move back to Brisbane was too good to pass up.
"I left Queensland looking for opportunity and gained that with New South Wales, and for that, I am eternally grateful," Hauritz said. "I was able to realise my dream of playing for Australia and thoroughly enjoyed playing cricket with NSW and with Randwick-Petersham. My wife Di and I enjoyed living in Sydney, but when the possibility emerged for us to come back home, it was too good to miss."
"The chance to work with Boof [Lehmann] and get back to playing with the guys I grew up was very attractive and the fact I enjoyed my time with the Brisbane Heat last season reinforced that it was the right way to go. I still believe I can play for Australia and I'm confident the way the Bulls play and the group they have will help me with that goal."
Lehmann said Queensland were happy to welcome Hauritz home. "He's a world-class offspinner, which fits in with how we are structuring our squad, and I am sure he is ready to demonstrate those skills for us and again reach the heights he has previously achieved," Lehmann said. "He showed me with the Heat that he is a calm, mature cricketer and we're confident he will work beautifully with the Bulls group."
Queensland's two big signings came as all six states continued to lock in players for next summer, with one week left in the contracting window. Western Australia were keen on recruiting the Tasmania wicketkeeper Tim Paine to replace Luke Ronchi, but Paine has declared he will be staying in Hobart next season.
The Warriors were also interested in Tom Triffitt, the young Tasmania backup gloveman, while his state team-mates James Faulkner has also received interest from interstate. However, Tasmania confirmed on Friday that Faulkner had signed a new three-year deal to remain with the Tigers.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here