Law demands 'ruthless streak' from Khawaja, others
As he set about the task of throttling back Usman Khawaja from Twenty20 to Test matches, Australia's batting coach Stuart Law spoke of his desire to return to the nation's batsmen the sort of collective "ruthless streak" that limited him to one Test in a career that ultimately reaped more than 27,000 first-class runs.
Law had the help of Ryan Harris, recuperating from shoulder surgery, plus Ben Cutting and Nathan Hauritz to bowl to Khawaja at Allan Border Field, while time was also reserved for the Pro-Batter technology that allowed the left-hander to face up to a bowling machine synchronised with video footage of Sri Lanka's pacemen and spinners.
He defended Cricket Australia's decision to pull Khawaja and the rest of the Test squad out of the BBL, and spoke with the passion of an unfulfilled international batting talent of the opportunities afforded to batsmen by the retirement of Ricky Ponting, who he debuted with in Perth in 1995.
"We're trying to get a ruthless streak back into our batters that we had going through domestic cricket 20-25 years ago," Law said. "If we can get that back where players aren't just scoring 60s and expecting the next step to happen, but they're scoring 100s, 150s and doing it consistently, not just once or twice but three, four times, that will put their names up in lights.
"What an opportunity now? Ricky Ponting, one of Australia's greatest has retired, you've got an opportunity to take over his position - you'd cut your own leg off to have that opportunity, and you want to be doing everything you possibly can to get it. I know Big Bash is a big part of the Australian cricket calendar now, but we're in the middle of a Test series.
"We just got beaten by South Africa, we've gone 1-0 up, we want to put everything into winning this next Test match so we can take a series. That's our whole objective. If that means sacrificing a few players who don't play in the Big Bash, there's more games after this Test series to be involved in and surely we're all for the greater good of Australian cricket - the Test team is the No. 1 team to play for."
Khawaja's time in Brisbane is geared more towards getting his batting rhythms and routines more right for Tests, after last summer's disastrous India series for Shaun Marsh, who came back into the national team via the BBL. Marsh made an audacious 99 for the Perth Scorchers in Melbourne, then cobbled a measly 17 runs in six innings against MS Dhoni's team, a contribution so meagre that it has probably ended his Test career. Law noted that if anything Khawaja's international shortcomings so far have been more as a fielder, runner and athlete than as a batsman, but that he would benefit from deliberate time to adjust.
"He's one of the better batsmen technically going around, he's very sound, [but] there's other things these days to playing cricket," Law said. "You've got to be able to do more than one skill. If you're not bowling you've got to be able to field, and that was pointed out to Usman a while ago that he has to improve in certain areas, as well as going back and scoring runs.
"He didn't really have a problem with his batting, he didn't get the big scores that would have kept him in the side. Usman's joined the Australian team for the Boxing Day Test, so we've got to get him prepared as best as possible for that to take place. To get him out of Twenty20 mode and back into Test mode is pretty important."
Australia's team performance manger Pat Howard, meanwhile, has spoken of how fervently CA are seeking ways of reducing the chances of the national team going a man down in mid-Test match. The loss of James Pattinson in Adelaide arguably cost Michael Clarke's team the chance to defeat South Africa, while injuries to Ben Hilfenhaus and Clarke very nearly did the same against Sri Lanka in Hobart.
"Absolutely the reality is the current situation's not good enough," Howard said of the injury toll. "We want to be better than that, and I'm really disappointed with where we're at the moment. I'm not shying away from that, and we're making sure that any issues we've seen come up have been raised. We need to be better."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here