Sport

Usman Khawaja in line for Indian Premier League pay day after Big Bash League heroics

Rod Marsh overlooked him, but Australia's man of the moment Usman Khawaja could be hot property at this year's Indian Premier League player auction.

The new batting sensation of Australian cricket is in line to be handsomely rewarded for a spectacular summer in which he has established himself as a bona fide international star and Twenty20 dynamo.

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While his performances in the Test arena have bought him credibility, it's his explosive form in the shortest format that  stands to reap him a  lucrative payday in the world's richest tournament.

In the IPL shopfront for the first time, Khawaja has a reserve of $210,000 - which seems a bargain after national selector Mark Waugh said he was in better form than former West Indies great Brian Lara. 

Usman Khawaja of the Thunder plays a shot during the Big Bash League final match between Melbourne Stars and the Sydney ...
Usman Khawaja of the Thunder plays a shot during the Big Bash League final match between Melbourne Stars and the Sydney Thunder at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.  Photo: Robert Prezioso

Khawaja's value will appreciate significantly if, as appears likely, he wins a berth in Australia's World T20 team and proves himself equally proficient on subcontinental wickets as he is at home.

And his price will further soar if he becomes the subject of a bidding war from teams in search of a high-class top-order batsman who can post big scores like Khawaja did during Sydney Thunder's championship-winning Big Bash campaign.

In Khawaja's favour is the introduction of new teams for 2016 - Pune and Rajkot - who still need to fill the bulk of their roster and with a diluted player pool to do so.

Delhi Daredevils are in search of a player with Khawaja's attributes and, with $8 million left in their kitty, they have plenty of room  in their salary cap for a major buy.

Khawaja's close ties with Jacques Kallis, who is coaching Kolkata for the first time, should ensure he also comes under the Knight Riders' microscope though they have one of the lowest purses of the eight franchises.

This is not the major player auction and most franchises are using this to plug holes on their list, which goes against Khawaja, but several sides still have between $4.8 million and $6.4 million left to spend.

That the BBL was broadcast live to India means Khawaja's match-winning innings in the BBL will not have gone unnoticed by the  decision makers at each franchise.

Although stunningly left out of the one-day squad for the series in New Zealand, many regard it as only a matter of time before Khawaja becomes one of the few players who figures in all three forms of the game for Australia.

That is set to be recognised in the next round of Cricket Australia contracts where he could gain a ranking inside the top five just behind on-field leaders Steve Smith and David Warner and pace-bowling superstar Mitchell Starc.

Off the field, the Pakistan-born Khawaja is seen as a potential future face of the game given Cricket Australia's desire to spread the game to new cultures.

CA insiders say there is no player more giving of his time with his community work.

"We're going to see more people from his heritage and background playing for Australia in the future," CA chief executive James Sutherland said on ABC Grandstand last month.

"I think he can be an inspiration to the next generation. What we really want cricket to be is a sport that reflects the demographics of Australian society – men and women, boys and girls from all different backgrounds and Usman can certainly do that."