Rising Pune Supergiants sign Usman Khawaja
"One of our mainstays du Plessis has injured his finger during the course of the last match and has returned to South Africa for further treatment," Supergiants coach Stephen Fleming said in a statement. "We are glad to have roped in Usman Khawaja in the team. His presence will definitely be an advantage to the team and could be pivotal in bolstering the position of the side in the tournament."
Khawaja had a highly productive 2015-16, in which he scored 1006 runs in 15 international matches at an average of 62.87. He was the leading run-getter for Australia in the World T20 with 143 runs in four matches at an average and strike rate of 35.75 and 137.50.
Despite playing only four matches in the Big Bash League, Khawaja had scored 345 runs for Sydney Thunder, including two centuries, at an average and strike rate of 172.50 and 163.50. Khawaja's average was the second best by a batsman in any T20 series with a minimum of 300 runs. He also became the second batsman to make more than one century in a BBL season after Craig Simmons of Perth Scorchers (2013-14).
"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," Fleming said. "His style of play is perfect for the T20 format."
Given his top form leading into the IPL 2016 auction, he was expected to be one of the big buys there, but went unsold. Khawaja has not played a competitive match since Australia's World T20 game against India last month but said he was confident of performing immediately for the franchise.
"I'm not the kind of guy that needs to hit a lot of balls to feel good," Khawaja told cricket.com.au. "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. 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."
Supergiants have struggled early in their debut IPL season, winning two games of their first six matches.