Australia news January 1, 2013

Khawaja a new man - Lehmann


Usman Khawaja's increased work ethic and new, more aggressive style will hold him in good stead if he is given an extended run in Test cricket, according to his state coach Darren Lehmann. Khawaja is on standby for Australia's captain Michael Clarke for the third Test against Sri Lanka in Sydney but even if he does not play in that match, he has a strong chance of being installed as the replacement for the retiring Michael Hussey for the upcoming tour of India.

Khawaja, 26, has played six Tests but was dropped last summer and told he needed to work on several aspects of his all-round game, including his fielding and ensuring he rotated the strike while at the crease. His off-season move from New South Wales to Queensland allowed Khawaja to work with Lehmann, a respected coach who has aimed to instil an attacking mindset into his charges over his two seasons at the helm.

"I've been really impressed, he has adapted to a new aggressive style of play that we're really big on in Queensland," Lehmann told ESPNcricinfo of Khawaja's approach this season. "He's adjusted to that really well. We're really impressed with what he's doing and how he's gone about it.

"Technically there weren't too many changes, it was more a mindset with him and getting him to be really aggressive and positive in what he's doing. He's taken that on board. He has improved his fielding, he has improved his work ethic off the ground and we're really pleased for him."

Although Khawaja is not locked in as Hussey's replacement, it is expected he will at the very least be part of Australia's touring squads to India and England this year. In his Test appearances so far, Khawaja has shown promise without posting a big score - he has made 263 runs at 29.22 with only one half-century from 11 innings - and Lehmann said if he was given an extended run in the side it would do his confidence a world of good.

"If he gets a good run at it, that's what you want," Lehmann said. "If he can get that run and he doesn't have that fear of getting dropped straight away, he'll do well. We're pretty confident with where he's at and where he's going. He's a good kid and he's worked really hard to get where he wants to get to."

However, the one area of Khawaja's game that he still needs to improve is his conversion rate of half-centuries to hundreds. During his 2012 count season with Derbyshire, Khawaja passed fifty on seven occasions but only once did he go on to triple figures. For Queensland this summer, Khawaja has managed three half-centuries and one hundred from 11 first-class innings.

"He does have to get big hundreds," Lehmann said. "He's got four or five fifties for us in Shield cricket and only gone on once to get one hundred. We have spoken about conversion rate and that is a big thing, but he's playing that expansive game now so he has to find the happy medium. He will do that."

The one Shield century Khawaja has scored this season was one of the finest the competition has witnessed in a long time, as he cruised to 138 from 178 deliveries on a green seaming Bellerive Oval pitch that was so difficult that no other batsman from either side managed a half-century. Khawaja's work at No. 3 for the Bulls in that game was the reason they were able to complete an innings victory inside three days.

"It was outstanding," Lehmann said. "It was one of the best hundreds I've seen in Shield cricket. I don't think anyone else made fifty runs. It was really impressive."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Graham on January 2, 2013, 22:45 GMT

    Ian Jones - Got no issue with foreign born players playing for Australia. The contentious issue is players who learned all there cricketing skills at another country (I forgive the Hick and Wessels as they had no country to represent at the time), but K Peterson, J Trott, D Pattinson, Mullally, A Hollioake, B Hollioake, G Jones to name a few all learned there cricket away from England. The likes of Strauss who played considerable cricket for England at a young age is ok too.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2013, 16:44 GMT

    Henrik, you make valid points but you need to put Phil Hughes in the Hick and Ramps category not just Khawaja!! Hughes's technique is dreadful and has been found out.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2013, 16:37 GMT

    The Aussies love whingeing about South African born players playing for England. How are you going to react with a Pakistani born cricketer playing for Australia? Or for that matter how did you react when other foreign born players played for you? Symonds, Wessles, etc?

  • Lewis on January 2, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    @Barnsey444 let me correct you, Khawaja was shield player of the year in 2010 and won the Bradman medal in that year which is why he made his debut. The year before he averaged 66 and was again picked in the shield team of the year. He has been in the shield teams of the year for 2009 and 2010 but missed out last year due to being dropped unfairly. What stands him apart are where he got his runs, on absolute green decks where the other teams struggled to match his individual scores, 140 against Tasmania when they got 90, 2 half centuries against NSW when they only got 150 and a 90 odd against South Australia on a green gabba deck on his debut for the Bulls, may i say more or do you need more convincing.

  • david on January 2, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    mamboman at least the guys a proper test batter whos had to sit out while sloggers get the chance for test baggy green.

  • david on January 2, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    the pakistani born khawaja will do another sound job he had to come into the picture soon. i thought they would have picked another T20 batter to match warner and hughes good luck to the guy

  • Brenton on January 2, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Just to clear up what some are saying here. Khawaja has scored a total of 3 centuries in the last 3 FC seasons. Last season Khawaja averaged 27 with 1 century and no 50's. Two seasons ago he averaged 47 with 1 century. I'll believe he's good enough for test cricket when he proves it.

  • Graham on January 2, 2013, 9:25 GMT

    Wow Ross Hambling - Think you were having a go at me but agreed with everything I said, yeah 431is ok and I believe he will be the next selection but does not guarantee his selection. I said he averaged above 60 - think both seasons were 63 when I checked (not above 70 as Hyclass pointed out). That got him into the team the first time round. Its just he hasnt been a stand out since he was dropped. Again if he got a pair in his last game with the LBW he still couldnt be averaging over 50 (431 out 9 times is not above 50). However he was averaging 48 before the last shield game. My opinion on Burns what I have seen is ok but an average of 30 this year is not going to get him a test game.

  • Ross on January 2, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    @Shaggy76 i hardly think 438 runs is a bad effort, he is well on his way to get a 1000 run season and that on a green pitch shield season is a great effort and i think you need to check your facts, Khawaja was the shield batsman of the year in 2010 and did average above 60 in both 2009 and 2010, i just checked it. I think we can agree that he deserves Hussey's spot and then we can make a call on how he does. Hyclass your knowledge on most player's game is very good, i think most people were not aware that Khawaja was averaging 52 before his last game and about the lbw decsion which got media coverage. What's your thoughts on Joe Burns, he is another talent that i like, what do you think.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2013, 7:36 GMT

    Kawaja had an average run, but he has promise much like the majority of NZ and the Aussie A team players. all he needs is that match winning performance/big 100 in a test and he could easily secure his slot no questions. Not every great player got into the team straight away and I am sure this man has the mind set and the resilience to understand it. I mean M Hussey is a great example, not young when he had his debut but became the go to man who secured his spot for some time at the end of his professional career.