Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne

Law demands 'ruthless streak' from Khawaja, others

Daniel Brettig

December 20, 2012

Comments: 18 | Text size: A | A

Usman Khawaja pulls during his maiden Test fifty, South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 4th day, November 20, 2011
Usman Khawaja is one of the better batsmen in Australia technically but he needs to improve his fielding skills, says Stuart Law © AFP
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Players/Officials: Usman Khawaja | Stuart Law
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

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.

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. Stuart Law, the Australia batting coach

"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

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Posted by Paul_Rampley on (December 21, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

@Agreed Oztraya, good thing is that he is next in line and hopefully gets a longer run similar to what Cowan and Warner have been provided with. Cowan is averaging 34 after 11 tests but we are sticking with him because he shows potential, similar backing should be given to Khawaja.

Posted by ozwriter on (December 21, 2012, 9:37 GMT)

khawaja, a future legend, one of the top 10 batsmen in the world. my prediction. but he needs to be give a decent run. as law has pointed out.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (December 21, 2012, 9:19 GMT)

Matthew Thorpe i think everyon wants Clarke to play, he is our best batsman but choosing Khawaja as backup shows that selectors are rewarding batsman who are scoring in testing conditions. Less then a week to go for the boxing day test, can't wait

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 21, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

@Hyclass i think you might want to come up with your own words but take your point, taking the longer format more seriously has paid of for Khawaja. LewisMacksville makes a very good point on Khawaja, he was never really dropped for failing because he had top scored in a record chase against South Africa the game before but more for not converting his 50s into 100s, hopefully he gets an extended run next time around as we need his class for the ashes. Clarke is fighting to get fit for the Boxing day and we need him but it will be great for Khawaja to train with the squad and learn of the senior players.

Posted by landl47 on (December 21, 2012, 6:53 GMT)

Quote from Hyclass: 'It's no coincidence that the two Aus players(Hughes and Khawaja) who have improved and who are currently 1 and 2 in Shield scoring are the two who spent the Aus Winter playing county cricket in England. Many players from all over the world have found that playing county cricket is hugely beneficial in terms of improving their technique and of understanding their game better.'

That's very well put. I might have said the same thing myself. Oh, wait a minute- I did!

Posted by   on (December 21, 2012, 6:41 GMT)

id still much prefer khawaja to sit the match out, cos thatd mean clarkey is fit!

Posted by hris on (December 21, 2012, 3:32 GMT)

Please whatever you do, DONT lose this attitude. We are not the best in the world now but this mentality it wont be long. And we dont want only to be number 1 but stay their for a long long time.

Posted by challagalla on (December 21, 2012, 1:33 GMT)

@Front -Foot _Lunge. Agree with you totally. Law is candid and spoke straight. I wish our Indian administrators and cricketers learn from this. The rubbish they dished out as excuses for losing 10 tests this year was pathetic. The English coach was forthright in admitting they goofed in leaving out Panesar [ Ahmedabad test recently ] and yet all we heard from Dhoni and BCCI are the usual whine about team in transit, poor pitches etc. Makes me wonder why I continue supporting this team?

Posted by KhanMitch on (December 21, 2012, 0:45 GMT)

@Frontfootlunge its good to see coaches speaking bluntly, as Law pointed out Khawaja has one of the better techniques among the younger folks given he hasn't played much T20 but once he gets an extended run he should convert the 50s into big ones, no doubt his fielidng and running is now great and that willl stand him in good stead for his comeback.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (December 20, 2012, 23:23 GMT)

@Edward_L and MaccaMat i was not happy with Khawaja's running last year between the wickets granted Punter's run call at the Gabba wasn't the best but selectors are usually on the mark with the improvements they ask for. I haven't seen Khawaja's running but from the selectors have stated it sounds like under Darren Lehman he has improved significantly both with rotating strike and fielding. Khawaja axing last year was differnt to Hughes, because unlike Hughes he didn't have to make technical changes to his batting as his technique is very good but because he didn't succeed on sufficiently grand a scale or convert his 50s into 100s or as Clarke states it "you have to score big. Hopefully he does that on his next test birth.

Posted by Rahulbose on (December 20, 2012, 16:59 GMT)

Australian board sure knows how to make the tough choices. First with Ponting retirement, which is nothing new in Australian cricket. Now they are resting quality players from the Big bash to focus on Test cricket. If only Indians could follow their example.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (December 20, 2012, 14:58 GMT)

@HyIclas and RahulAshok, also think the same. If Khawaja makes it back on to boxing day test match then look for an improvement in his fielding as much as his batting. We know he has scored them in testing conditions, but more importantly he has been keeping the scoreboard ticking over as much with his running as his shot-making which was something the selectors asked him for in their "to do" list i.e rotating the strike.@MaccaMat i wasn't aware he was fielding well in slips, that's good as we need good slip fielders with Punter departing.

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 20, 2012, 13:59 GMT)

@Hyclass agree with you mate. We all know that Khawaja has scored in testing conditions this year and Inevarity rightly stated that in his team announcement. What's less mentioned is that when the Bulls are in the field, Khawaja has been taking up his new position in the slips cordon and snaffling just about everything that has come his way, showing the benefit of Lehmann's pre-season focus on fielding. Now as Law has pointed out he needs to do what Clarke is doing and covert the 50s into big ones.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (December 20, 2012, 13:12 GMT)

If Khawaja gets a go in the upcoming test then people can witness first hand how good his fielding and running between the wickets is now. Boof has improved this aspects in his game and rest can see for themselves. @Hyclass is correct in that playing more county cricket and less T20 cricket has helped Khawaja immensely and hats off to CA for making test cricket a higher prioirty then T20 cricket. Khawaja as Clarke's replacement should be in the nets working on his batting as he has been rather then play T20.

Posted by hycIass on (December 20, 2012, 12:57 GMT)

I agree with Law. Khawaja is among the best young batsman in the country and has become much more aggressive under Lehman and he needs to translate this at the top level. Its much better for Khawaja to be facing Harris, Cutting and Hauritz at the AB oval then face a Thunders 20 20 match. His fielding and running has improved under boof this year and thoes who have seen him in Ryobi would have seen this. It's no coincidence that the two Aus players(Hughes and Khawaja) who have improved and who are currently 1 and 2 in Shield scoring are the two who spent the Aus Winter playing county cricket in England. Many players from all over the world have found that playing county cricket is hugely beneficial in terms of improving their technique and of understanding their game better.Staying away from the 20 20 format has helped him alot.

Posted by   on (December 20, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

First thing first will he be lucky enough to get the chance at all . i really hope that he grab the chance with both hands if he gets one.

Posted by Masud_BITK on (December 20, 2012, 10:54 GMT)

In Test Cricket, Khawaja's fielding is OK. If you point out the last run out by Ricky, it was NOT a run. It was Ricky's bad call, cost to Khawaja. Just renewed that video and see where was that run in Test Match mode. What Khawaja need to develop his confident, and bit of luck. Hoping to get all good. This might be his last chance before he has to wait for another long spell.

Posted by Front-Foot_lunge on (December 20, 2012, 10:05 GMT)

This straight-talking approach from Law typifies Australia's no-nonsense approach to cricket. Compare that to the double speak from the english politburo, who use management double-speak like 'reintegration' with regards to Peitersen. One is honest and upfront, the other reeks of bureaucracy and David Brent-esque approach to the game. I know which one I would back to safe guard the future of the game in my country....

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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