THE ASHES, 2023
High-flying Khawaja wary of England challenge
by Staff • Last updated on Mon, May 15, 2023
Usman Khawaja is in a happy space these days. From coming up as a prodigy in his younger days to finding himself in and out of the side, to now being one of Australia’s mainstays in the longest format, Khawaja has seen it all. Since January 2022, no Test batter has scored more runs than the elegant left-hander (1608) and among the top ten run-getters in this period, Khawaja’s average (69.90) is the best of the lot.
With the World Test championship final and the Ashes both around the corner, Khawaja is well aware that these are six red-ball games in England that will be a huge examination of his skills. Ahead of the pre-tour camp in Brisbane, Khawaja spoke at length about his evolution as a batter and the inevitable challenges in England.
“I feel like I’m a better player than I was 10 years ago,” opines Khawaja. “I have more experience than I did back then. But there’s no guarantees, Anderson, Broad, they’re unbelievable bowlers, they’re tough work at the start.”
“I guess the other side is, that’s what makes it so awesome when you do score runs and you contribute to a winning team, which hopefully I’ll do, and others will do over there, when you do it against guys like Broad and Anderson in England, it’s just that much more satisfying.”
For someone who made his Test debut way back in 2011, it is puzzling that Khawaja has played just the 60 Tests in his career. For the record, Australia have featured in 124 games since his debut in 2011. The 36-year-old felt that the selectors in Australia had been volatile in their plans.
“Over the last 10 years, I think they’ve een very reactive, and the media itself is also reactive. As a cricketer, you’re going to fail one, two or three games, that’s very normal, and then you score runs, and then you’ll fail, and then your score runs. It’s just a cycle of cricket.
“So I’ve always been big on just picking your best players and sticking with them, because they’ll score you the most runs consistently, and I think over the years with selection for Australian cricket, we have chased our tail a little bit, trying to pick players ‘in form’. But form is 100 per cent temporary, class is not.
“I think the new selectors (George Bailey and Tony Dodemaide), and with Andrew McDonald at the top, they’ve both experienced that too, and they understand that part of the game, hence why there’s a lot more stability, and selecting and picking players and sticking with them, and I’m all for it. I love it.”
England has been a thorn in the flesh for Australian batters over the past decade. Apart from Steve Smith (65.08), Chris Rogers (49.82) and Marnus Labuschagne (50.42), none of the Australian batters have averaged 40 or above during their trips. Khawaja’s numbers are extremely underwhelming – he averages a paltry 19.66 from 12 innings in England – and this is a record he’ll be keen to correct. Particularly given his exploits overseas in recent times.
“England is, in my opinion, the toughest place in the world to bat for a top three batsman, plain and simple. New ball is tough work, but then you get some conditions, and it’s a bit of luck involved in it, too; sometimes you get the other team out, then suddenly the clouds roll over, other times you’re out there and it’s nice and sunny.”
“If I’ve learned anything, it’s work hard, train hard, and, if you’re going to England, go with low expectations, and then just work on every game one at a time, because you are going to fail as a batsman. But when you do score, you try to cash in as much as you can.