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Hughes, Khawaja start anew

Daniel Brettig

September 25, 2012

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

Both Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes were left out of Australia's Boxing Day Test squad, Cricket Australia Chairman's XI v Indians, Canberra, 3rd day, December 21, 2011
On the day they were dropped from the Australian Test team, Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja batted together for the CA Chairman's XI against the Indians in Canberra © Getty Images
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Freshly relocated, Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja wish to prove that they are no longer the lost boys of Australian batting.

Sometime last summer both fell out of their prams - dropped from the Test team - and struggled to cope with the repercussions of demotion when playing for a New South Wales side that was battling to function effectively.

Each spent much of the winter in England, where Hughes played for Worcestershire in division one while Khawaja helped Derbyshire to promotion out of division two. They have now returned to Australia and are getting acquainted with new surrounds. Next week they will meet as foes, when Queensland host South Australia at the Gabba.

Khawaja had a move to Queensland in his thoughts well before season 2011-12 ended, and Hughes had always admired South Australia's languid lifestyle and Adelaide Oval's friendly pitch, even if he did not confirm his departure from Sydney until well after the summer's end.

Both can point to past success at their new home grounds. Khawaja notched his first Sheffield Shield century at the Gabba in early 2009, and added another the following summer. Its pace off the wicket will be a useful ally to his back foot game, while the prospect of early swing and seam does not appear to perturb him.

"I scored my first century here, and I scored another century the next year," Khawaja said in Brisbane. "So I've enjoyed the Gabba, it's a place where it's tough cricket but you can score runs too if you get in. I enjoy the wicket here, it's got a bit of pace in it - challenging but also rewarding at the same time.

"I came up to Queensland cricket because one I felt like I needed a fresh start, two I wanted to win, and I felt like being here gave me the best chance to enjoy my cricket, start afresh, and hopefully I'm here to help contribute to Queensland cricket winning as many competitions as we can. If I can put my hand up and contribute to the team that will help."

For Hughes, Adelaide's rhythms are closer to those of his Macksville home in country NSW than Sydney's hustle and bustle were ever likely to be. The Adelaide Oval pitch is also amenable to his bush technique, as an aggregate of 475 at 118.75 in three matches can attest. If the Oval's conditions do not force Hughes to answer the questions posed by New Zealand's Chris Martin on testier surfaces last summer, they should help him gather confidence, a critical element to his early international success in South Africa.

"I've been here a few times for a week or two here and there, and I love the place," Hughes said of Adelaide. "I'm originally from the country in NSW, so I'm that down-to-earth type bloke, more laid-back and I think it provides that here, and that's one thing I looked into as well. The place is a lot quieter than Sydney, it's a lot easier to get around, as I've already found out, and I'm looking forward to it.

"I love Adelaide Oval, I've played there a few times now and hopefully I can get as many runs as possible, it can be good for batting at times and once you're in on any wicket you want to make good scores. Hopefully I can do that."

Neither Hughes nor Khawaja won many points for their attitude upon returning to the NSW dressing room last summer, as they pondered what might have been with Australia rather more readily than they contributed to the Blues' faltering season. Khawaja has the chance to rehabilitate his game and his place in the team room under the tutelage of Darren Lehmann, who helmed a Bulls Shield victory in his first season as coach. The past examples of Ryan Harris and Peter Forrest are helpful.

"They did a lot of hard work to be where they are, they didn't just come here and let it happen, so there's nothing certain about now that I've moved up here my career's going to go to the next level, the next stage," Khawaja said. "I've got a lot of hard work in front of me and there's going to be a lot of tough times for me to get through. I'm just here to be honest to enjoy my cricket, have fun and the rest will take care of itself.

"Darren's been great, just like everyone else, they've all really made me feel welcome, which is probably the toughest thing coming to a new place. I've talked to Darren here and there, been at the Centre of Excellence the last couple of years, and I've known him for a good four or five years now, so I know what he's all about and he's just a guy who loves his cricket."

Hughes, meanwhile, showed a willingness to open up to new advice in England, working attentively with Worcs' coach Steve Rhodes where previously he had listened only to the technical advice of his long-time mentor Neil D'Costa, to the exclusion of all others. Darren Berry, the Redbacks' coach, will hope for a similar level of openness.

"Steve was good, he's a hard working coach, and I found his work ethic was outstanding, and from the day I got there he made me feel very welcome," Hughes said. "We got to the nets and he was quite simple on a lot of things, for me that's a good thing, and through the four months he was very supportive of me.

"I just want to be the most consistent player I possibly can be in all three forms of the game. It can be tough to juggle all the formats and hopefully through the season I can score as many runs in all the formats that I can."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by ozwriter on (September 28, 2012, 13:09 GMT)

great to see in Khawaja in Queensland. class player. hope to see him star for queensland and propel himself back into the national team.

Posted by hyclass on (September 28, 2012, 8:34 GMT)

I wish both these players well. Neither had statistically good 1st class County seasons, but the weather played havoc and often required contrived run chases on difficult wickets. Yorkshire captain Gale described Khawajas 110* against them as 'having played and missed more than the entire Yorkshire side, as well as being dropped twice in slip. I dont believe either player has improved their games in the last 18 months. Khawajas inconsistent trigger movements,habit of walking front on and lack of forward press will make him prone to runs of outs on moving wickets. Hughes seems to lack the intelligence that his early form suggested he must possess. Any player who can score 1637 runs in 10 matches on 3 continents including V SA at home, with 8 centuries at 96, shouldnt be looking to make wholesale changes to his game.His ave has plummeted to 45 and it must be clear that work ethic is far less relevant than game plan. His original game was good enough.His pursuit of technique is a failure.

Posted by Mary_786 on (September 27, 2012, 13:56 GMT)

Khawaja is a champion player, can't wait to see him dominate for Qld.

Posted by Meety on (September 26, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

@MattyP1979 on (September 26 2012, 04:41 AM GMT) - Finn is a Bully Boy when playing Bangladesh!

Posted by Vishnu27 on (September 26, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

@thebarmyarmy: get real. Seriously. As opposed to the United Cricketing Allstars...oops I mean England

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (September 26, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

Agree with Jonesy, Khawaja will grow as a player playing in Gabba where he will be tested as batting there for shield games is tough. Hughes will have a much easier surface to bat on in the Adealide oval but hopefully he gets runs outside of Adelaide to show he has improved. I watched Khawaja win Derbyshire the county championship and he is looking in great form.

Posted by Hammond on (September 26, 2012, 8:04 GMT)

I dunno jonesy2, I could name half a dozen England sides from history that could brush the current Australian XI away like a bad smell. I mean even the current team is capable of that! Usman & Philip? Decent Shield players. Nothing more.

Posted by jonesy2 on (September 26, 2012, 7:35 GMT)

Hammond -- i know, thats why england have never had a half decent cricket side. as far as these two superstars go, its going to be hard because they are one of many potential test greats floating around in shield cricket who are looking to have big seasons. to be fair ussie never deserved to be dropped he only was because marsh had come back from injury

Posted by jonesy2 on (September 26, 2012, 7:30 GMT)

they like many of the great young batsmen around the country need a big season. with the likes of marsh & marsh, burns, patterson, lynn and these two, there are plenty of great talents around, the trick, like meety says, is to be able to score runs against the mighty bowling attacks that are in every state team

Posted by jonesy2 on (September 26, 2012, 7:23 GMT)

great move for both, hughes will like opening at adelaide and will be a much needed world class top order batsman that the redbacks so desparetly require and usman suits the gabba with the pace and bounce and what not. nsw was too congested with world class top order batsmen aswell.

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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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