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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, 12:09 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, 7:34 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, 12:56 GMT)

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

Posted by Meety on (September 26, 2012, 9:44 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, 8:53 GMT)

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

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (September 26, 2012, 8:24 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, 7:04 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, 6:35 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, 6:30 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, 6:23 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.

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (September 26, 2012, 5:42 GMT)

@TheBengalTiger you will have to wait for Australia to come to India,because every time we smash you we do not see your so called legends for a while.anyway good luck with your wishfull thinking

Posted by SamRoy on (September 26, 2012, 5:20 GMT)

Except for Warner who will be hit or miss like the young Sehwag 10 years ago, I am yet to see a promising young Australian batsman. Khawaja is the most organized of the lot but doesn't play any attacking shot of the front foot through the off side which is a massive weakness. I have not seen Nic Maddinson, so can't comment about him. The rest: Smith, Bailey(not so young), Forrest, Marsh, are very mediocre. One thing is for sure. Can't have both Warner and Hughes opening. Scorecard would read 5 for 2 every third innings.

Posted by MattyP1979 on (September 26, 2012, 4:41 GMT)

Chris_P. Unfortunatly due to the lack of quality players, rotation and the Aus expectant public I think you will find players being thrown into that couldron far too early and often. I think players like Smith/Cummins/Pattenson could well develop into fine cricketers but are being forced into the national side too early. Eng's managment of Steve Finn is finally a good example of how to do things rather than the bad old days. As an outsider I see plenty of rotation of spinners/WK and batsman whilst the bowlers keep getting injured.

Posted by Meety on (September 26, 2012, 4:35 GMT)

@unregisteredalien on (September 26 2012, 00:14 AM GMT) - I keep checking my inbox everyday, no offers!

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (September 26, 2012, 4:22 GMT)

Well said fr0nt-foot_lunge, Khawaja is a class player and was one of the main reasons Derbyshire won the division 2 final getting man of the match in the final game. As someone from an Indian background growing up in Australia Khawaja excites me because I can see many young players from our community following his example I predict a big season from him in Queensland, the pitch there is tough to bat on but he is good enough to get runs there. The challenge on batting in Gabba will make him a better player and hopefully the Aussie selectors will give him a proper go as opposed to 1 or 2 games at a time which he got in his first stint. Adelaide oval is the easiest pitch to bat on so I hope Hughes proves himself outside of Adelaide oval.

Posted by Mary_786 on (September 26, 2012, 4:00 GMT)

Agree with Edwards_L, Khawaja is a class player, he is the main reason Derbyshire won the county division and looking forward to seeing him dominate in the shield like he did in 2010 and 2009 as sheild batsman of the year.

Posted by Meety on (September 26, 2012, 1:08 GMT)

@Dashgar on (September 25 2012, 12:38 PM GMT) - IMO, you are 100% right about Marsh IF he hadn't of been injured in Safrica. At the time I thought he should NOT of played the 1st Test on the "back" of ONE T20 match. I think it was a shame that he got injured when he did, (it was something that certainly played a part in the 2nd innings).

Posted by unregisteredalien on (September 26, 2012, 0:14 GMT)

What I really want to know is: when is Cricinfo going to offer Meety a job?!

Posted by Meety on (September 25, 2012, 23:35 GMT)

@Hammond on (September 25 2012, 09:33 AM GMT) - I bet you needed to actually try that to work out you couldn't - LOL!!!!! @Gordo85 on (September 25 2012, 14:53 PM GMT) - re: Cosgrove, 2 years ago, I was very much on the Cosgrove bandwagon. I dunno whether he just got comfortable in Tassie & dropped off, or was unlucky, but last year was very dissappointing & IMO, he needs to start again. If he backed up a great year last year I definately would of had him on that A-tour of England. I think the next Ozzy batsmen will come from that tour. @Chris_P on (September 25 2012, 23:05 PM GMT)- I think that gap has been in Shield for a while (since all those great servants of Oz cricket started retiring in the early to mid 2000s), the likes of Bichel, Kasper, Bevan, Waugh bros, & Lehman. There was about 2 Test teams worth of talent (not including Warne, McGrath, Haydos etc), which created a vacuum. I think it filled quickly in bowling stocks, which has made batting tough for newbies!

Posted by Chris_P on (September 25, 2012, 23:05 GMT)

There is probably a gap from the 25-30 age group of quality players, even hard nosed experienced players maturing late. But as the recent U19 tourney showed, there are a group of exciting batsmen coming through, I just hope they are managed well & not shoved into the cauldron too early.

Posted by Chris_P on (September 25, 2012, 22:56 GMT)

@TheBengalTiger . Did you read the article? BOTH batsmen thrived in England, totally different conditions to Australian pitches. @Milhouse79. You should have a look at the shield cricket, you wlil note that Smith's technique has improved considerably form previous seasons. And as for Hughes, flat footed wafters never succeed in England, go check out Hughes performances last season.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (September 25, 2012, 20:09 GMT)

I remember growing up and begrudgingly admiring the Aussie conveyor belt of batting talent coming through and wondering how people ike Staurt Law, Blewett, Jamie Cox etc couldn't get a game. It is a sign of how far the Aussies have fallen when they think a flat footed wafter like Hughes (who can't play the short ball) is considered the answer. Forrest? Steve Smith? Bailey? You guys have to be kidding! There is no way any of these guys are test standard. Mind you, when you have someone as average as Cowan opening the batting anyone might get a game. You guys have to hope and pray that someone comes through soon, as Punter and Mr Cricket are living on borrowed time. I think Khawaja shows more potential than those other jokers put together.

Posted by TheBengalTiger on (September 25, 2012, 18:59 GMT)

Typical Australian cricketers, only good in their own conditions. In fact, these two are so bad they can't even play in their own comnditions. They will fail. cannot wait til they come to India

Posted by MattyP1979 on (September 25, 2012, 18:18 GMT)

Aussie FFL lol nice one. I actually think you are right that both these players will be getting back in the test team very soon. It is for this reason that all nationalities educated or non believe Aus batting stocks are thin, and bowling, fielding, support staff, youth, development.........ashes going south lol. SA up next for you lot now that has to be worth a watch.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (September 25, 2012, 15:22 GMT)

Agree with Rahul and the other comments, can't wait to see Khawaja play for Qld and be the leading shield scorer as he was in 2010 and 2011, class player

Posted by Gordo85 on (September 25, 2012, 14:53 GMT)

All I know is Khawaja needs to keep playing consistant cricket. If he does that he will get back into the International team but having said that he needs to also start being consistant in International level not only domestic level. I hope Cosgrove gets picked a head of Khawaja for Test selection. Khawaja still has some work to do before making a come back. If in fact he ever does come back. I would maybe say try playing him in the 50 over game and let him get used to playing for Australia and if that doesn't work well atleast Australia tried.

Posted by Mary_786 on (September 25, 2012, 14:05 GMT)

Can't wait to see Khawaja play for Qld, he is a champion player, I watched his man of the match innings in the final game for Derbyshire which got them to Divion 1 and he was all class. Good signs for Australian batting.

Posted by Dashgar on (September 25, 2012, 12:38 GMT)

Hindsight says Khawaja should have played against India instead of Marsh, but at the time picking Marsh was a no brainer. Marsh had played better in Sri Lanka and was looking good in South Africa before an injury. He was then out for injury and came back for the Melbourne test in place of Khawaja. What we know now is that Marsh batted appallingly all series and was dumped for the returning Watson. So really Khawaja was never seen as one of Australia's best six batsmen, he was a replacement. He just needs to score big this season and he'll be high on the list of men to step in if we lose a player for any reason (form, injury, retirement). Hughes on the other hand was axed for Cowan so he'll need to show fundamental improvement to his technique to be considered again.

Posted by ali00 on (September 25, 2012, 12:12 GMT)

I wish Khawaja make his maiden Test hundred and Last summer he brought his maiden against South Africa and may be this summer he will bring his maiden Test hundred and I know he can do it and he is such a Wonderful player and he can play against the short bowl. Love Khawaja

Posted by KenyaDigIt on (September 25, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

what ponting upto these days?

Posted by thebarmyarmy on (September 25, 2012, 11:17 GMT)

Welcome back to team Pakistan... I mean Australia.

Posted by Front-Foot_lunge on (September 25, 2012, 10:24 GMT)

As a concerned England fan, I carefully watched both these players during the county season this year and they were both impressive. Hughes seemed to always be in the runs in the shorter format,but not so in the 4-day games. That would be his only shadow over his season here when looking ahead to the Aus shield season. Khawaja was class for Derbyshire, one of the main reasons they got promotion, and I would suggest, due to his faultless innings in the last game, the reason they won the div2 title. He exuded class and confidence on the pitch and basically owned the ground that day. Made a tricky run-chase look pedestrian. Only Churlish and uneducated England fans believe Australia's batting cupboards are bare and if these two have stellar seasons and cement a spot in the national side, with their experience of the duke and english conditions, I suspect the ashes may well be heading south.

Posted by tpjpower on (September 25, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

Definitely very happy to have Uzzy coming into the side - if Burns and Lynn turn in strong performances this season we could see three young Queensland batsmen coming into the Australian team over the next couple of years. As for this season: place some solid young bats alongside the likes of Cutting and McDermott Jnr, and we might have a shot at retaining the shield this season...

Posted by RandyOZ on (September 25, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

Both will be playing in the Ashes. Future legends of the game.

Posted by disco_bob on (September 25, 2012, 9:48 GMT)

I predict that 2013 will be the year that Khawaja breaks back into the team and establishes himself at no. 3 where he looks to have the perfect temperament. I would expect him to be playing in the Ashes.

Posted by StoneRose on (September 25, 2012, 9:47 GMT)

It's Steve Rhodes not Seve Rhodes - he's from Yorkshire not Spain!

Posted by Hammond on (September 25, 2012, 9:33 GMT)

I'm sorry, it's sad but true, but you simply cannot polish a turd.

Posted by nthuq on (September 25, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

Loving Khawaja's expression in the photo. Best of luck to both these guys.

Posted by PrasPunter on (September 25, 2012, 8:55 GMT)

@ CricHorizon , i sort-of agree with you. Uzzie made a wonderful 65 when we chased down 310 against an attack featuring a rampant Steyn, Morkel and Philander in bowling-friendly conditions. Surprised to see why he hasn't been given a long run. Should have played the series against india in place of Shaun Marsh who had a horrible run. Anyway, best wishes for Uzzie . Go Aus !!

Posted by ozwriter on (September 25, 2012, 8:22 GMT)

best of luck to both these guys. i don't think the two players should have been dropped in the same conversation with the selector. hughes got dropped because of technical frailties which he must amend (understandable) and he had a few series where his position was secure. the reason khawaja got dropped isn't as clear with fuzzy things like 'fitness' and 'speaking up in the dressing room' (i mean really? thats just LOL material), and he did not get a run of games to build some momentum.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (September 25, 2012, 7:52 GMT)

Good luck to both of them and hopefully the change is the kick they need. Both have massive amounts to do to come back into Tests. I know many will have written them off but they have the examples of Hayden, Martyn & Langer who all had a big gap in their Test careers after their initial entry. All went away and did the work and the rest was history. Even someone like Amla had an early period in his Test career where he was regarded as a walking wicket.

Posted by cecil89 on (September 25, 2012, 7:27 GMT)

Crunch time for both of these batsmen. A career defining season coming up. Falter & they can expect to be passed by guys like Cooper, Steve Smith, Forrest, Marsh, Quiney, Bailey, Davis & even guys like Christian & Maxwell for test places. Put in impressive seasons and they can again eye off the spots to be vacated by Ponting & Hussey & apply pressure to Cowan for that second openers position.

Posted by Meety on (September 25, 2012, 7:15 GMT)

IF Khawaja & Hughes turn their fortunes around this summer, Oz's "bare" batting stocks become quite plentiful, particularly if any one of Burns, Beaton, Davis, Maddinson, Patterson or Neville get amongst the runs too. The biggest hurdle our Shield batsmen have is, that they are playing against some of the best pacers in the world in favourable bowling conditions over the last couple of seasons. I think Sth Oz have the worst bowling attack, YET, they have an attack that has 3 internationals (George, Lyons & Christian) & a very good leftie in Putland, & a leggie I like in Bailey.Add to that a good prospect in Richardson too! That's the worst State bowling line up, not too far below International standard. So runs are not easy at the moment in the Shield, although a possible drier summer may turn the tables!

Posted by chad_reid on (September 25, 2012, 7:10 GMT)

Khawaja can make it back to the team dont know about the other one he has had more than enough chances but still has the same problem when batting mainly because we a have a hopeless batting coach

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Daniel BrettigClose
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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