Khawaja to fulfil dream after landing Pakistan T20 gig
Usman Khawaja is set to achieve a major cricketing ambition and play in the country of his birth after he was drafted by Islamabad United overnight
28 April 2021, 11:31 AM AEST
Usman Khawaja is set to play in Pakistan, the country of his birth, for the first time after he was picked up in the Pakistan Super League's 'replacement draft' overnight.
Khawaja was selected by the Islamabad United franchise, the club that represents his city of birth, for the rescheduled tournament that has been scheduled for June.
He will be joined by fellow Australians James Faulkner, Callum Ferguson and Joe Burns, who were all selected by the Lahore Qalandars.
The PSL was halted in March amid several breaches of the tournament's biosecurity arrangements, with numerous players contracting COVID-19. The tournament was suspended after 14 matches had been played, and the remaining 20 games will be played in the National Stadium in Karachi in June.
The news four Australians have signed up to head to the subcontinent in June comes as some Australians have opted to leave the Indian Premier League amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic in that country.
For Khawaja, who was born in Islamabad before his family emigrated to Australia at age five, the chance to play in a rescheduled T20 league was too good to pass up given the PSL usually conflicts with the Australian domestic summer.
"As long as I'm playing domestic cricket in Australia I won't get the opportunity to play in the PSL," Khawaja told cricket.com.au earlier this month.
"This might be a little blessing in disguise to play over there. I'd love to go over there and play.
"I've played in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh but I've never played in Pakistan where I was born and it's something I would love to do, to go home to where it all began for myself, my family."
"I love cricket returning to that region, too, because I think they're doing some really, really good stuff over there, doing some really hard work to get people to come over there and play.
Khawaja, who played six games with the Rising Pune Supergiants in the 2016 IPL before spending the entire season on the sidelines in 2017, gave a strong endorsement to the Pakistan T20 competition.
"Personally, if the PSL had as much money as the IPL there's no doubt all the international players would be going there," Khawaja told cricket.com.au.
"At the end of the day, people don't want to talk about it but it's all about cash. Cash is king. It's the reason, when at times there have been some red flags travelling to the subcontinent people have always pushed the barriers, the boundaries a little bit because everyone has a price.
"That's just the nature of the beast but the way the Pakistanis, what they're doing with security – I think England is going over there and I'd love to see an Australian team tour to Pakistan in the not too distant future.
"Hopefully in the next couple of years would be ideal but I guess it needs a bit of buy in from the players too."
The International Cricket Council's future tours programme (FTP) has Australia scheduled for an away series against Pakistan in February and March of 2022, comprising of two Tests, three ODIs and three T20s.
CA's former chief executive Kevin Roberts and ex-head of security Sean Carroll visited Pakistan in September 2019 to begin groundwork for an Australian team's first visit since Mark Taylor's side in 1998.
Ferguson's selection by Lahore marks his return to top-flight cricket after the Sydney Thunder skipper was sensationally dumped by club after BBL|10. Ferguson has previously played nine games for the Pune Warriors at the IPL in 2011 and 2012.
The draft also marks the first time Brisbane Heat batter Burns has been bought at a T20 franchise auction, having previously only played T20 cricket abroad in England.
Faulkner, the 2015 World Cup-winning allrounder, is an experienced T20 player having previously won an IPL title with the Rajasthan Royals, but missed the closing stages of the Australian summer with Tasmania to recover from hamstring injury.