Usman Khawaja shapes as Sydney Thunder's unexpected trump card in the Big Bash League as the franchise plots to help the out-of-favour batsman return to the national side.
Khawaja played a single BBL game during the previous summer, when he was an automatic selection in Australia's Test XI.
The left-hander was dropped during this year's Ashes then overlooked at home, meaning his next chance of representing Australia is likely to be a three-match ODI tour of India in January.
Thunder coach Shane Bond admits he wasn't expecting to have the 32-year-old on deck for so much of the Thunder's BBL campaign, which starts when they face Brisbane Heat in Tuesday's season opener at the Gabba.
"I am surprised but that's the nature of the game. It adds a lot more firepower to our batting order and a cool, calm old head in the rooms," Bond told AAP.
"Obviously really disappointed for Uzzy.
"He has spoken about his motivation to get back in the Australian team and we're here to do everything we can to help him get into that one-day squad and push his claim for Test matches."
Khawaja's 54 at a smoke-covered SCG was his first half-century this Sheffield Shield season but the veteran scored 398 runs at 79.6 for Queensland in the domestic one-day competition.
Khawaja played a pivotal role in the Thunder's 2015-16 BBL title, earning man-of-the-match honours in the semi-final and final.
"He's got an amazing record in the Big Bash," Bond said.
"I'm really enjoying having him around and there's no doubt our chances of being successful go up because we're going to see more of him."
Callum Ferguson, who will captain the Thunder after Shane Watson's departure, felt for Khawaja.
"It's a bonus for us but it's also really disappointing because we want him playing for Australia," Ferguson said.
The Thunder, who had Jos Buttler and Joe Root on their books in 2018-19, have recruited South African allrounder Chris Morris and England slugger Alex Hales for this summer.
Hales is set to face the Heat next week, while Morris could miss one or two games because he is contesting the finals of South Africa's T20 league.
"We've got some very good players who will be sitting on the bench," Bond said.
Australian Associated Press