Usman Khawaja raises his bat after completing his ton in the semi-final of the BBL 2015-16 for Sydney Thunder against Adelaide Strikers © Getty Images
Usman Khawaja raises his bat after completing his ton in the semi-final of the BBL 2015-16 for Sydney Thunder against Adelaide Strikers © Getty Images

To say that Usman Khawaja has been a revelation with the bat in recent times would be a bit of an understatement. Khawaja has been in spanking form in both Tests and Twenty20, having scored centuries for both Australia in recent five-day fixtures, as well as for Sydney Thunder in the ongoing Big Bash League (BBL) 2015-16. The icing on the cake is his latest knock for Thunder against the Adelaide Strikers in the first semi-final of BBL 2015-16. Chasing 160 to guide his side to their first-ever final in the tournament’s history, he hammered an unbeaten on 104 off 59 deliveries, tearing the opposition bowlers into pieces. The Australian selectors would have to be living under a rock in some remote Oceanian island to not sit up and take notice of the young Pakistan-born southpaw after that innings. UPDATES: Sydney Thunder vs Adelaide Strikers, Big Bash League 2015-16, 1st semi-final at Adelaide

Khawaja created history when he became the first Muslim Australian cricketer, as well as the first of Pakistani origin after making his debut in 2011, establishing himself as a Test specialist since then. In the 13 Tests that he has represented Australia in, Khawaja has accumulated 881 runs at an impressive average of 46.36. He managed two half-centuries between 2011 and 2013, before getting dropped from the side due to an inconsistent run.

It was the recently-concluded series against New Zealand that served as the watershed moment in Khawaja’s brief career so far. He hammered his maiden ton (174 not out) in the first Test at Brisbane, and followed it up with another century in the following match at Perth, before a left hamstring injury forced him out of the day-night Test at Adelaide. He continued his newly-found magical run in the ongoing BBL, smashing an unbeaten 109 for Sydney Thunder against Melbourne Stars in the group stage, one that earned him a recall into the Australian Test side at the expense of an in-form Shaun Marsh. He impressed once again against a mediocre West Indian attack, scoring 144 and 56 in the Melbourne Test.

While Khawaja definitely deserves a mention among the next big stars in Australian cricket, given the current form that he is in, the national selectors have routinely overlooked him in the limited-overs arena. He barely made an impact in the three ODIs that he has played till date, in which he has managed a meagre 14 runs so far. However, the ease with which he minced the opposition bowling attacks in Australia’s premier Twenty20 tournament makes him a deserving candidate for a breakthrough into the national T20I squad. He was especially ruthless in the semi-final match against the Adelaide Strikers, hammering 13 fours and three sixes in a marathon innings in which the bowlers were made to look ordinary.

The upcoming ICC World T20 2016 has called for all participating teams to make extensive preparations ahead of the mega-event. Australia are currently thrashing India in a five-match ODI series on home soil, and are expected to continue the trend in the upcoming three-match T20I series as well, which incidentally will also be their last outing in the 20-over format before the ICC World T20.

The T20I series against India begins on Tuesday, January 26 (which is also India’s Republic Day), with Australia already having announced their squad, which so far does not include Khawaja’s name. The selection committee however, would not be committing a grave sin if they made a last minute addition to the squad in the last moment. Especially if it involves testing a potential match-winner, days before the defending world champions head to the subcontinent in pursuit of the one trophy that has eluded them amidst all the glories till date.

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)