Usman Khawaja, or the Big Bash League: which of the two has enjoyed a bigger breakthrough this summer? Reflecting on Sydney Thunder's victory over Melbourne Stars in the final at the MCG, it was hard to put my finger on it.

For Usman, this has been the season in which all of his rich natural talent came together, with a run of centuries and match-winning innings similar to that of the Australia captain Steve Smith last time around. For the BBL, this is the year in which all the work of the organisers and the clubs has resulted in a tournament watched by more than a million spectators at the grounds, and almost as many most nights on TV.

I still think that Usman and the BBL have some improvement left in them, in similar areas, but first I want to look at how both batsman and competition have thrived in 2015-16.

There has been a lot of criticism of the decision to keep Usman out of the one-day team to play in New Zealand before the Tests, but I don't think that will bother him too much.

It has been clear that he has approached things this summer with terrific focus on the job at hand, no matter who he has been playing for. He'll go back to Queensland, play his Sheffield Shield game and do his best to be ready for the New Zealand bowlers, on pitches that will be a bit more challenging than most we saw at home this season.

"Usman's strokeplay has improved, and so too has his finding of gaps, and his running between the wickets. He's now a player bringing crowds through the gates, which is great for the game in Australia"

Batting in itself has never been the issue for Usman. His ability was obvious from very early on with New South Wales, and he progressed smoothly through the ranks into the Test team in January 2011. His debut innings, at the SCG, showcased strengths like his pull shot and his back-foot game, but also weaknesses when it came to rotating the strike, or in terms of getting bogged down against spin.

Near enough to five years of learning followed that knock, and what we saw from the first ball Usman faced against New Zealand at the Gabba last year was a maturing player, positive and purposeful - hungry too. His appetite for hundreds was not satisfied by one in Brisbane, so he made another on a hot day in Perth, and a third when he came back from injury on Boxing Day.

I was most impressed by how Usman showed he now understands his cricket to be a package. His strokeplay has improved, and so too has his finding of gaps and working of singles, and his running between the wickets. We barely saw him tied down at all this summer, and in the BBL he showed an ability to score quickly through good, attractive cricket shots instead of anything overly exotic. He's now a player bringing crowds through the gates, which is great for the game in Australia.

The whole of the BBL had a feeling of energy and enthusiasm I'd never quite experienced before. This really hit home in Adelaide before our match against Strikers, when everyone in the city's cafés all seemed to be talking about it. I played in five Ashes series, and it was that level of hype - nothing else has come close to it.

Unfortunately for Sixers, we weren't able to get ourselves into a position to contend, which was disappointing for all of us. We've had our debriefs and discussions, and will be better next time around - injuries permitting, of course. After losing someone like Trevor Bayliss it was always going to take some time to reset, and it was interesting to note how Thunder benefited from stability over a couple of years, and then minimal changes to their team over the course of the competition.

In the final, Mike Hussey's men held their nerve, although they were helped along by the odd bit of ordinary fielding from Stars. Daniel Worrall's misfield late in the game released pressure at exactly the wrong time, and it was far from the only instance of fielding mistakes or dropped catches over the tournament.

I think we're seeing a lot of domestic players being placed under the spotlight in ways they have not encountered before, whether it be massive crowds, live television, or match scenarios, all of which feel so much bigger than before. That's a good thing, because it separates those who can handle it from those who can't. While drops and misfields can be dramatic, they're not great cricket, and the BBL will be a better standard when we see more cool heads and soft hands.

Similarly, Usman needs to keep working hard on his fielding and mobility to be the all-format player his batting suggests he should be. Playing for Australia in limited-overs games is about so much more than your chosen discipline, as shown by how fielding and running between the wickets made a lot of the difference between the hosts and India in an ODI series of high scoring.

I should add here that Usman has come an awful long way as a fielder the past few years, and he is by no means a struggler anymore. But the selectors want agile movers and strong arms in just about every position, as they had during the World Cup last year. Usman knows this as well as anyone, and I don't doubt his ability to reach that sort of standard in time.