Khawaja looks to make most of 'fresh start'
In his first incarnation as a Test cricketer, Usman Khawaja played six Tests, scored just one half-century, and was dropped. In his second coming, Khawaja played three Tests, made one half-century, and was dropped. In his third crack at Test cricket ... who knows? The rest of that story is yet to be written. But Khawaja is 28, and knows there may not be a fourth chance.
He is philosophical about his cricket - "Just because I've been picked a third time doesn't mean I am somehow going to be Don Bradman" - but determined to give himself the best chance of succeeding at Test level. His desire for self-improvement led him to move from New South Wales to Queensland in 2012, a change that he believes has benefited his game greatly.
Part of the reason for his move was a desire to work under the coach Darren Lehmann, who was then in charge of the Bulls and is now the national coach. Khawaja has certainly thrived at the Gabba, where he scored his maiden first-class century for New South Wales and where he now averages 67.46 in first-class cricket.
"I have improved a lot since I've moved up to Queensland," Khawaja said. "Boof was up here, I wanted a fresh start and I have loved every bit of Queensland. I have trained my backside off every time I have come here trying to improve as a cricketer. But every game is a new game. There is nothing set in stone, there is nothing to say that I will come here and blast 400, I have to do a lot of hard work.
"My game always suited the Gabba. It's a ground where you get a lot of rewards as a batsman. It's tough work, it swings around, but at the same time it comes onto the bat really nicely. It's like the WACA, if you get yourself in, you can really go on with it and make a big one. You have to do the hard work early on to get the rewards later on."
Khawaja is one of those fringe Test players for whom big things were expected due to the class of his strokeplay, but in nine Tests he has not managed a score greater than 65. He is realistic about the fact that his future now lies in his own hands, and his team-mates also hope that he can show at Test level the kind of skill that he has displayed for Queensland and New South Wales.
"It's time for him to step up and show what he really can do and what he's capable of because we know what he's capable of," David Warner said. "But it's about him now on this stage, the different class of Test cricket to show what he is capable of and I think he's definitely got the game to do it. He's got the patience. He leaves very well outside off and when he gets in he does cash in."
Khawaja's first foray into Test cricket ended as the result of a lean home series against New Zealand, the last time the two teams met in 2011. Then in 2013, he missed out on a recall during the tour of India when he was one of the players suspended over the homework incident - which he plainly states he believes was unfair - and had a short stint in the side during the Ashes only to be cut again.
With Steven Smith moving down to No.4, Khawaja will be Australia's No.3 during this series, a position he has occupied in the Test side before. And while the squad has so far been chosen for at least the first two Tests against New Zealand in Brisbane and Perth, Khawaja has no idea how long he will be given to prove himself.
"It's hard to say, you don't know what the selectors are thinking, that's why you don't want to leave it in the selectors hands, you want to go out and perform straight away," Khawaja said. "No one had a magic eight ball on how I will go. Whether I'm playing club cricket, first-class cricket or Test cricket, there's always pressure to perform. It's sport and that's what you love about it."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale