The swashbuckling left-handed opening batsman Usman Khawaja has been called up to join MS Dhoni's Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) for the rest of IPL 2016. The new franchise confirmed the news on Thursday.
Khawaja will join the RPS squad following injuries to Kevin Pietersen and Faf du Plessis. Pietersen was ruled out of IPL 2016 last week because of a calf-injury.
Dhoni's woes continued as Faf du Plessis too was ruled out of IPL 2016.
Khawaja, who went unsold at the IPL 2016 Player Auction earlier this year, did not expect a call. But now he is happy and raring to go for his first ever IPL stint.
Khawaja has not featured in any competitive cricket since Australia's match against India at the ICC World T20 2016 last month. But, he is confident that he can start striking the ball much like he did during the Big Bash League for Sydney Thunder earlier this year.
"I'm not the kind of guy that needs to hit a lot of balls to feel good. I hit a few balls today, I'll hit a few balls again and I'll be ready to go. Even during the season I don't hit a lot of balls. At training I'm usually out (of the nets) pretty quick. I do all my bulk training out of season," Khawaja was quoted as saying by official website of Cricket Australia.
"I didn't feel too much different. That's a good thing – I was still whacking them, I still felt good. I'm pretty confident (of performing immediately). At the end of the day you've just got to watch the ball."
Khawaja played only four matches in the Big Bash League and he finished the tournament with an astounding average of 172.50. In these four matches, he scored a couple of centuries and also a couple of fifties as well. He should provide a lot of solidity to the RPS batting lineup.
"His presence will definitely be an advantage to the team and could be pivotal in bolstering the position of the side in the tournament," the Supergiants coach Stephen Fleming said.
"His imperious form for the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League victory last season and being the leading run-scorer for Australia for the recently-concluded World T20, has made us sit up and notice. His style of play is perfect for the T20 format."