Daniel Brettig
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Khawaja's curious fade

His scores may not quite bear it out but Usman Khawaja's game has stagnated, and he may miss the West Indies tour

Daniel Brettig

February 15, 2012

Comments: 62 | Text size: A | A

Usman Khawaja pushes to the off side, South Australia v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield, Adelaide, 4th day, October 20, 2011
Khawaja hasn't looked as assured on the front foot as on the back © Getty Images
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Not everything in Australian cricket has moved forward this season. While the captain, Michael Clarke, grows in stature, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey enjoy Indian summers, and the fast bowlers discover the virtues of bowling full and straight, others have slipped up, or slipped back.

Some, like Shaun Marsh, Phillip Hughes and Callum Ferguson, have simply failed to make the requisite number of runs. In the case of Shane Watson, the recurrence of injury has demonstrated that he is not quite as indispensable to the Test team as many thought he was. Mitchell Johnson too has been inconspicuous by his absence.

A more complex case is the fading of Usman Khawaja from the immediate thoughts of the national selectors. As it stands, Khawaja is more likely to miss the West Indies tour than he is to make it. At first glance it appears a harsh judgement, given that in limited appearances for New South Wales in between Australian and Twenty20 commitments his scores have been 116, 24, 101, 100, 21 and 14. But beyond the bare scores are wider concerns about Khawaja's progress.

On his debut, against England last year, he looked the part, crafting 37 runs on the first day of the fifth Ashes Test. His composure was notable, as was his back-foot game - a pull shot to his second ball from Chris Tremlett still lingers in the memory when so much else in the series does not. But there were signs that he had more to do. After a fast start to that innings, Khawaja was becalmed, and ultimately dismissed, by Graeme Swann's spin, a challenge he is yet to master. In the second he edged a delivery angled across him as he probed forward, demonstrating far less comfort on the front foot than the back.

Those shortcomings notwithstanding, the consensus at the time was that Khawaja, provided he kept building on his fundamentals, would become a permanent part of Australia's top six sooner rather than later. Given a strong first-class record and seeming comfort in international company, it looked inevitable. A winter came and went, and he flew to Sri Lanka for Clarke's first series as captain, intent on adding to his one Test. A smooth century in the tourists' only warm-up match nudged Khawaja ahead of Marsh, and he stayed in the team for Galle.

Sri Lanka, however, was where the first suggestions of uncertainty, both from Khawaja and about him, began to emerge. Batting at No. 6 in Galle he struggled mightily on a turning surface. His pair of scratchy 20s looked reasonable on a scorecard littered with lower individual tallies but left an impression for their stiffness against the spinning, reverse-swinging ball. In Palekelle, Khawaja was unfortunate, unbeaten on 13 when impending rain forced Clarke's declaration. But he had not done enough to keep his place in Colombo when Ponting returned from a brief trip home for the birth of his second child - Marsh's debut century tilted the balance.

On the team's return to Australia, feedback about Khawaja from the tour party, selectors and management, was less than glowing. To paraphrase Mike Gatting's oft-quoted line about Graham Thorpe when an England selector, Khawaja did not offer much to the tour other than runs, and even those did not come in rich enough supply. He did not - does not - spend the extra hours in the gym that others do to cross the line from "cricket-fit" to athletic. He needed to do plenty of work on his fielding, which did not meet Steve Rixon's exacting standards.

In the era of Clarke, and what would soon become a bevy of new support staff, no man is an island. Simon Katich had paid a high price for becoming a cagey, brooding character within the Australian dressing room, even though his volume of runs over the preceding two years had been unmatched among Test batsmen around the world. Katich had his reasons for introspection, but the contrast with Hussey and Ponting in particular was stark. Khawaja entered the home summer having developed a perception of self-containment, if not absorption. It can be a difficult habit to break.

In the weeks between Sri Lanka and South Africa, Khawaja made sure he could not be cast aside, making centuries in his only two matches for the Blues, both against South Australia at Adelaide Oval. The first was a sedate limited-overs hundred in a match that would be lost when the Redbacks chased more audaciously than the Blues had set their target, the second a diligent, match-saving effort against the spin of Nathan Lyon after SA had rumbled through the NSW first innings. Either way, they were made against one of the weaker attacks in the country - another question mark that has been raised on closer inspection of Khawaja's batting returns in domestic cricket.

Marsh's back injury offered up another chance for Khawaja, in Johannesburg, and at the start of Australia's chase of a decidedly awkward target it was his composure that helped make a successful pursuit possible. Khawaja's 65 was his highest Test score, and worth considerably more for its circumstances.

The pace of Khawaja's scoring and the range of his strokes came up for discussion, but slow scoring is less of a problem than struggling to rotate the strike

While there, Khawaja and the rest of the Australian players were introduced to Pat Howard and John Inverarity, two key members of the new support structure for Clarke. In Brisbane ahead of the first Test against New Zealand, they met Mickey Arthur, the new coach. All were privy to the previous regime's thoughts about Khawaja, and were aware of what they wanted him to improve. At the Gabba, Khawaja was again unfortunate, run out when he appeared good for many more than his 38 - Ponting was at fault. But in the field he struggled, resting on his heels too often at short leg.

Khawaja would again battle in the position, in Hobart, in the last match he would play for Australia this summer. His two innings on a dicey surface were slow and halting, placing pressure on the men at the other end to score, albeit in difficult conditions. The pace of Khawaja's scoring and the range of his strokes had come up for discussion, but slow scoring is less of a problem than struggling to rotate the strike. In comparison Ed Cowan's rate of scoring is similar, but his tendency to work in singles has provided his partner, often the dashing David Warner, the opportunity to bat with both freedom and security. The same could not be said of Khawaja. As the national selector, Inverarity has spoken often of players putting more into the team's bucket of qualities than they take out.

Following the Hobart Test, Khawaja was informed by Inverarity that he would not be part of the team for the first Test against India. Inverarity conveyed his tidings at the same time and in the same room as Hughes received his own news, an exchange known to have irked Khawaja. Since that time he has played out an indifferent Big Bash League, before returning to action with NSW against Tasmania.

He made another hundred against the Tigers in a domestic one-day match, an innings of poise and style, though again for a losing side. But it would have been noted by the selectors that in his first ten balls, Khawaja played only two scoring strokes, one a pulled six, and on the 11th he was dropped at slip pushing forward to a ball slanted across him. It might have been the same Khawaja of a year ago, before his debut and all its attendant adulation and analysis. Very little, strength or weakness, has changed.

Mentors, of course, can and will help. Katich, in his more gregarious NSW posture, speaks regularly with Khawaja, as does Cowan. Arthur and Inverarity remain in touch, and Sydney is the right place in the country for a young batsman needing more and better exposure to spin bowling. His management also has a role to play, and as in the case of most international cricketers, cannot be underestimated as a source of advice and direction, good and bad.

Khawaja's presence in Australian sides of the future remains highly probable, but it is no longer certain. Rightly or wrongly, the men choosing Australia's teams want more from him, and they may ram home the point by leaving him out of the West Indies tour squad. They are waiting for greater signs that he is listening. Only then can Khawaja join the Test team on its quest for international credibility.

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

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Posted by AidanFX on (February 17, 2012, 1:28 GMT)

I think the guy is class - but if he is not willing to do the hard yards in the gym - then maybe the selectors are right falling out of favour with him, for now. Fielding is an important component of the game - something traditionally Aus teams have flourished in. Not too mention the high professional and athletic standards of the game these days mean you fall behind the pack very quickly - it doesn't matter how naturally gifted you are.

Posted by Mary_786 on (February 17, 2012, 0:17 GMT)

Dannymania, I am also from the sub continent supporting the aussies,and let me point out that khawaja scored team's highest score of 69 in a record chase against South Africa in Cape Town which was what turned around Australia's confidence. Next innings he got run out for 40 against NZ when Ponting made the wrong call for a quick single robbing him of his century at the Gabba where he averages more then 100 in sheidl cricket and Khawaja was dropped for the next game. Hardly thing that equates to not performing, Marsh on the other hand averaged 2.7 in the whole series against India on flat pitches, had Khawaja been given the entire series against India we would have been celeberating his centuries and talking about how we have found our new number 3 for Australia. Khawaja is also a very good fielder which we all saw in the big bash 20 20 competition where he took a couple of blinders in the outfield.

Posted by Dannymania on (February 16, 2012, 20:38 GMT)

I am a pakistani but i love aussie cricket.this is exactly how things should be dealt with.Talking about Khwaja,i think he has been given ample amount of opportunities,he still hasnt made any significant contribution to the team's wins,and so he had to be dropped.Marsh had a blasting start to his test career,but then he declined.but he atleast made a very significant contribution to the team's win atleast once.so if the selectors had to choose out of these two,it SHOULD be marsh.Simon Katich's removal from the team is the best example of fairplay.he was one of the team's best batsmen but didnt know when to talk and what to say,so he was removed.I'ld say it again,LOVE aussie cricket!!!

Posted by Erebus26 on (February 16, 2012, 15:31 GMT)

Usman will get it right. He does need to work on aspects of his game - but it almost seems that he has gone into his shell . He does seem an introverted character and maybe needs to be handled a bit differently by the coaches and the selectors. Maybe their criticism has caused his game to stagnate and possibly go backwards. Khawaja has got the technique to pull through - that to me is self evident but maybe he needs to get things right in his head but the coaching staff can help here too. He strikes as a player that needs encouragement. There is need for him to improve on his fielding but I get annoyed when there is criticism of players not putting the extra yards in the gym. Pumping iron seems to highly regarded in the modern game for some reason but it doesn't make you a better player.

Posted by Mary_786 on (February 16, 2012, 15:24 GMT)

Khawaja deserves to be back in the aussie team in all formats. He has played 2 Ryobi Cup matches and 1 Sheffield Shield match so far this season and has scored a century in each one. I'm betting he'll force the selectors to take him to the West Indies. And those who watched him in the big bash 20 20 competition in Australia got to see what a good fielder he is if not put in the short leg position. Khawaja will be the future number 3 for Australia.

Posted by cricketsage on (February 16, 2012, 15:14 GMT)

All to do with Khawaja having to perform to a much higher standard than his peers.

Posted by Rabbie on (February 16, 2012, 11:15 GMT)

U T Khawaja has a better aggregate and average than I M Chappell, S R Waugh, Hayden, Boon, Langer, Watson and Symonds had at the same point of their careers. Should they have not been persisted with? As far as I can ascertain none of them played a major part in a 4th innings plus 300 run chase on foreign soil for a narrow 2 wicket victory at this stage this career. He'll be back.

Posted by Haleos on (February 16, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

He was always an average overrated player. Dont know why people made so much fuss about him.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 5:52 GMT)

great decisions to drop him. At the time he was dropped Marsh warranted his position far more. Warner and Cowan have also done more to help their cause than Kwawaja has. Hughes has scored centuries for Australia in the past as well. Furthermore Ponting and Hussey have proven that they have still got it and there experience is vital. There is no place for Khawaja in this Australian line up

Posted by Dockaman on (February 16, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

Usman will one day captain the Australian Test team. He has strong leadership qualities and acts with integrity. He simply needs to grasp his next opportunity at test level and score some big runs, he is certainly capable of batting for long periods. He is a far better prospect than Shaun March or Phillip Hughes, who's techniques are horribly exposed at test level. Maybe being dropped from the test team is the catalyst he needs to find the extra fitness and fire in his belly to become a permanent fixture of the test team. He will end up being a 100 test match player.

Posted by azzaman333 on (February 16, 2012, 3:06 GMT)

Right now, he's not even close to test quality. He's made 38 less runs than Marsh in the same number of innings, and we'd all agree that Marsh shouldn't be in the test team. Usman also has the disadvantage of being an allround poor fieldsman. Marsh at least can field quite well, albeit nowhere near well enough to make up for his abysmal batting form. You wouldn't write either of them off, especially not Ussie who's still quite young, but you'd want to see considerable improvement from them before selecting them again.

Posted by redneck on (February 16, 2012, 2:57 GMT)

never mind khawaja or marsh both avg in 20's after 6 or 7 tests each!! give forrest a go. i dont undertand how he can play well in the shield and only be considered for ODI's as a result? i saw him in adelaide and while he was a tad slow in making his 66 he still looked like a great option for tests. move ricky back up to 3 and play forrest at either 4 or 5 depending on where clarke wants to bat. that would be my thoughts for the west indies anyhow. prehaps khawaja should go play domestic cricket in pakistan to work on his spin problems, certainly would get alot better spinners and spinning decks to learn what he needs to be a more complete cricketer! theres only so much one can take out of bashing south australia round the park in the shield. playing for nsw is no easy achievement but it also means you dont get to face half of the quality bowlers that reside in australia as they're team mates!

Posted by Natx on (February 16, 2012, 2:56 GMT)

I feel for this poor guy, he has all the shots but he needs backing from his captain and selectors - I don't think he will get another hit in test cricket for the next 2 years or so until Ponting, Hussey etc. will hang their boots. Folks like Ian Chappell will continue to promote the likes of hopeless shaun marsh, phil hughes, etc. until these guys get exposed like how marsh demonstrated in the recent test series against India where even bowlers like siddle and hifenhaus outscored him by mile.

Posted by wix99 on (February 16, 2012, 2:31 GMT)

In retrospect the selectors would have been better of choosing Khawaja over Marsh for the Test series against India. Khawaja would certainly have done better than Marsh's string of failures. That said S. Marsh has done one thing that Khawaja hasn't. That is scoring a Test century. If Khawaja does get another chance to play Tests for Australia he needs to make a century to cement his place in the team. Otherwise he might find his career following a path similar to Jamie Siddons, Brad Hodge and Stuart Law who all scored prolifically in the Sheffield Shield but had few opportunities at Test level.

Posted by jazzaaaaaaaa on (February 16, 2012, 2:21 GMT)

To me there's still a bit of a boys club thing going on with Aus selections. Whilst the selectors have shown to be much better then the previous regime. I cannot understand why Marsh gets an extended run in the Aus side despite averaging about 3 in the last 4 tests. Yet someone like Khawaja who made some scratchy 20s and 30s plus a vital half century against SA on a tough surface gets dropped. I'd rather take some scratchy 20s and 30s over 0s by Marsh.

Posted by Micgyver on (February 16, 2012, 1:55 GMT)

He's definitely a talent however something is amiss.Too many times he gets a start and doesnt go on with it.Maybe its a concentration thing.One thing i have noticed though especially in 1st class cricket is that in recent times he has seemed to be in a shell that lacks attack and urgency in his batting.Unlike when he first arrived on the scene his batting was much more positive and attacking.Also you really have to make the most of yours chances when you get selected for your country but ive no doubt he will be back in the baggy green at some stage.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 0:41 GMT)

I thought he was a bit unlucky to be dropped but I have no doubt he has a strong future for Australia. Remember a lot of Australia's good batsmen in the last 20-30 years or so have been given a chance early, had on or off field weaknesses exposed, were dropped back to Shield cricket and come back stronger .... Ponting, Hayden, Langer, Martyn, Steve Waugh, Slater to name a few. It is unfortunate that the test series coincided with the Big Bash meaning he (and Hughes) couldn't play 1st Class cricket and possibly win their spots back. But I guess the BBL has to be played in January when the kids are off school to ensure bums on seats!

Posted by PeteB on (February 15, 2012, 23:31 GMT)

I was really pleased when Khawaja was selected. But there have been elements of his game that have disappointed, as has been suggested. For someone who appeared so well prepared for test cricket his fielding has been poor, as has his general athleticism. His poor technique against spin has surprised as well. I guess my prejudices suggested that being of South Asian parentage I expected he'd deal with spin pretty well but alas no. Test cricket will pinpoint a player's weaknesses pretty quickly and Khawaja's have been exposed. I hope he works on this and gets back into the team sometime soon.

Posted by Wozza-CY on (February 15, 2012, 23:28 GMT)

Khawaja came into the team when it was under a lot of pressure. There was a new captain, new players & new staff. Australian cricket was going through an upheaval and it appeared everyone wanted one change or another. After the previous summers performance it was fair enough. In his batting he was also under pressure because he had players above him (Hughes, Watto) and below him (Ponting, Clarke) who were badly out of form & one felt the senior players were looking for scapegoats until they got themselves in form. Given all that, I feel he performed admirably without setting the world on fire. I have no problem with the NSP communicating to him to go away & improve his fitness & fielding. I hope if he achieves that he is given another opportunity. If he was to bat at no.6 in a more settled, confident side he would perform better.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 22:38 GMT)

Usman hasn't done anything wrong , but unfortunately for him he is playing for a country that can win games even if they lose half a dozen players.If Usman was playing for any other country they would have given him time to mature,not that they would have wanted too but they would have had too.Only Australia has the glut of talent , coaching staff and money to swap and change or do what ever the like and be successful.It was only 12 months ago that everyone was saying (Australia is rebuilding, they will lose more games than they win.).their rebuilding didn't last long and are once again the best in the world on form and once again the envy of the rest of the world.Look and learn the rest of the cricket world ,on how to be successful, and I am sure most countries would love to have discards like Usman, Hughs,Marsh,Haddin,Johnson,Bolinger etc,etc, etc.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 22:30 GMT)

No No Khawaja Please , give shuan Marsh 6 test more...

Posted by smudgeon on (February 15, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

I've always put a lot of hope in Usman being the next big thing in Aussie batting. The moment he proved it was against NZ, with a beautiful wristy on-drive for four - nothing special about it apart from exquisite timing and placement, and showed that he belonged in the test team. I'm not sure I agree with the main points of the article, but I'm just a fan, not a coach or an expert. Regardless of his current status, the fact is that Hussey & Ponting won't be around forever, and Usman is still statistically one of the best batsmen in Australian domestic circles right now - he's still got time to pile up the runs and make it hard for selectors to ignore him. I'd hate for him to be another unfulfilled talent like Jamie Cox, Jamie Siddons or Michael Di Venuto...

Posted by hhillbumper on (February 15, 2012, 21:13 GMT)

He would provide some depth to that top 3.Lets face it its going to be a rough ride for them and they need some young batting talent.Even ponting can't bat for ever. Where is the young Aussie talent?

Posted by gothetaniwha on (February 15, 2012, 20:31 GMT)

Can,t understand why he was dropped in the first place . he failed twice on a green top against NZ ? three months ago the media was calling for youth to be added to the Aussie team and now they have beaten a poor Indian team 4/0 Ponting ,Hussey , score runs all is forgiven .I think Aussie will lose in the WI and the Aussie will be in the same position as India PENSIONERS who don,t and will not retire .

Posted by mamboman on (February 15, 2012, 19:53 GMT)

He's not good enough, never has been and never will be. Simple as that. he is a failed Hilditch-era experiment.

Posted by jplterrors on (February 15, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

On closer inspection it seems hes a bit of a misfit in the AUSSIE SETUP, wats the stand down period if he went 2 NZ, he'd probably fit in better there rather than being a bit part player for Oz

Posted by jplterrors on (February 15, 2012, 14:43 GMT)

He has been hard done by without his match saving 65 Clarke probably loses the captaincy and quits. Then his runout for 38 when set. Also his failures in Hobart need to be put into perspective as it was against NZ on a green surface and we all know theres no tougher task in the world atm.

Posted by crow_eater on (February 15, 2012, 14:27 GMT)

@dunger.bob you forgot Jason Gillespie bearing the sole responsibility for loosing the Ashes in England & never playing again.

Posted by TTking on (February 15, 2012, 13:57 GMT)

What is so wrong with Khawaja's performance in the test team? Nothing. Has he gotten an extended run? No. He has been used as a substitute for injured players only and has not gotten enough time to prove himself further. I saw him bat against England and thought he did well. Its very unfair to him because he should have opened played in S.Marsh position during the Indian Test Series. Marsh himself was rushed back into the team to fail.

Posted by ManlyHorse on (February 15, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

This is becoming a revolving door. You missed out Steve Smith who replaced Marcus North only 14 months ago and was effectively replaced after five tests by Shaun Marsh who is apparently now to be replaced after seven tests by the latest great white hope, Peter Forrest, because Khawaja is apparently not worth persevering with after six tests. If Ed Cowan doesn't get runs in the Windies they'll probably drop him.

My other concern is the lack of clarity over who's calling the shots. Arthur? Clarke? Inverarity? Howard? The part-time selectors? The specialist coaches? The senior pros? (I keep reading stories about what a great mentoring job Ponting is doing. Mentoring who?)

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 15, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

@ all the the people who think he has been treated poorly because he is of Pakistani decent. ..... what rubbish. ... our severe treatment of players is almost legendary. What about Simon Katich ? He doesn't look like an Asian-Australian to me. Dean Jones averaged over 70 in his last dozen or so Tests before they dropped him for 'reasons other than just cricket'. Before that was the travesty and supreme waste of talent that was Damien Martyns career. He was dropped for 5 (or was it 7) long years after playing one poor shot as a young man. What ended up being a nice career could have been so much more if someone hadn't decided he was an irresponsible playboy type on the evidence of one bad shot. ..... we have a long and miserable history of sticking it to certain players for the flimsiest of reasons and believe me, we don't care where the hell they happen to come from. .. the fact that he is of Pakistani descent has nothing to do with it.

Posted by Usman.Malik on (February 15, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

I blame Mickey Arthur. He was going on and on and on about how great Shaun Marsh is throughout the India series. Clarke seemed to be supportive of Usman and Phil after they were dropped. I saw Usman's fielding in the Big Bash, and he was great taking multiple catches in the outfield. The bit about not enough gym work is ridiculous, Boon, Lehman, Merv, Warne all went to the gym right?

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 15, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

Seems to me that Usman has been shown where the bar is, its up to him to jump it. Same thing applies to Marsh. .. I don't think either is totally out of contention. They just have to perform in first class cricket. .. btw, I thought Usman was a class or two below most of the others in the field. That's not such a problem for a young bloke willing to work hard on his skills, but it IS a problem for a young bloke not willing to have a go. There's not much sympathy for the lazy player in Australian sport and if he does have some issues in that area he'll have to change his attitude, simple as that.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (February 15, 2012, 11:31 GMT)

Maybe if he changed his name to Usman Marsh he'd get more a run. In fact, any cricketer with the surname Marsh, be they club or backyard cricketers, should all be glad that they have a better than even chance that they may yet represent Australia, as the name seems to come with an automatic entitlement. Geoff and Shaun, both mediocre players as there records suggest have been fortunate to play for there country as much as they have. Even Mitch, has been picked more on potential more than form. I hope for his sake, he unlike the other two actually deserves selection.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 11:30 GMT)

Must agree with the bulk of the comments, which seem to say that this article is harsh at best, and frankly bizarre at worst. Given how kind Mr. Brettig is towards Shaun Marsh it's hard to understand why he's so keen to nitpick the faults of another young guy who's had a much better summer.

Posted by Simoc on (February 15, 2012, 11:18 GMT)

I've yet to see Khawaja bat well. He is over rated by the NSW brigade like Hughes and Smith before him. But his time will comeif he is good enough. Marsh has already proved himself in adverse conditions overseas but has drastic form lapses, which newcomers can't afford. Ponting and Clarke barely scored last season against the Poms but made up for it this year. I reckon any test batsman needs to be able to turn over the strike but then the English failed to that recently against Pakistan.

Posted by RandyOZ on (February 15, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

The problem with Khawaja is he is clearly a confidence player. Unless he gets a continuous unchallenged run at number 3 he will continue to struggle. Hell though we'd much rather have him than Marsh!

Posted by Joninnorwich on (February 15, 2012, 10:40 GMT)

Totally agree with Zenboomerang. Can a Pom enter this discussion? Well here goes. I like Khaweja. I think he has raw talent and potential, and I don't see a whole stack of that coming up on the rails to dislodge Ponting and Hussey. At current rate of progress, Ricky will be playing a test match and then going home to his grandchildren if Oz don't unearth some batting. So what if Khaweja is a work in progress; that's what you get with a new kid. If you recognise the talent, then stick with him, if you don't that's your funeral!

Posted by ozwriter on (February 15, 2012, 10:28 GMT)

when shaun marsh averages less than 10 over 5 test matches on good pitches and achieves the WORST score of runs by a top 6 batsman in over 100 years, his myriad shortcomings only make one paragraph in a otherwise positively spun artlcle by D Brettig.

when usman khawaja averages 29 over 5 tests in bad pitches, and looks technically and mentally proficient, and then averages over 60 after he is dropped, his imaginary frailties are exaggerated into an entire article which is universally seen as harsh and unfair.

double standards anyone??? what more can this talented young man do?

Posted by ozwriter on (February 15, 2012, 10:24 GMT)

when shaun marsh fails repeatedly, coach Arthur is 'sorry' for him, 'wishes him the best', states that he is a critical part of australia's future and calls him up after every club or other game to say 'he's doing well' and that he would like to have marsh back in the side.

when usman khawaja doesn't fail and after he is dropped from the team for no good reason and then goes on to score centuries and average over 60, coach arthur does NOT call him, does not encourage him and does not even mention of it.

when shaun marsh will be dropped, he will have a heart felt discussion with the coach about what needs to be done. When usman khawaja was dropped, head selector inverarity doesn't even give usman khawaja the right to have a one to one discussion and instead has him sitting with hughes in the same room (the 2nd biggest failure this summer)

Posted by cricketator on (February 15, 2012, 10:23 GMT)

"Khawaja's 65 was his highest Test score, and worth considerably more for its circumstances." This wasn't just his highest Test score, but the highest in that innings.( http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/514030.html ) Simply put, Australia would have shamefully lost the 2nd test against SA, and the series, if not for Khwaja. Ask Ponting, he learnt a lesson or two from Khwaja and finally returned to form. @Daniel, why would you want to micro analyze this player mostly based on rumors? Why would you want to back up the prejudiced selectors?

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (February 15, 2012, 10:06 GMT)

Interesting article to hear about the thinking behind the scenes. I'm assuming this thinking has been conveyed to Khawaja personally and he has been given the chance to discuss it and address it. Most if not all young players have flaws in their game being it technical or mental or in personal dealings with the team and its the mark of them whether they address them and improve. Interesting to hear about him not being perceived as adding to the group, i always got the impression that was the case with Brad Hodge and the reason for his exclusion. I still think he has the talent to make it but its up to him how he reacts to this and that will decide it.

Posted by ozwriter on (February 15, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

Daniel Brettig, with this latest 'curious' piece of yours, it has hard to have respect for considered opinions.

1. No other player in the team has received such detailed analysis of minute things as you have done here. Not even the failing Marsh or Hughes. "But it would have been noted by the selectors that in his first ten balls, Khawaja played only two scoring strokes..." That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard. Have you seen Clarke start? Did you watch Ponting when he made his most recent century? Did you see hussey in the series that just went? If you look at the first 10 balls, more than half of the australian batsment would be lacking

2. as pointed out by zenboomerang, you fail to mention that Khawaja has been unfairly treated to be honest. He has not been given even 5 test matches to secure himself. He got a pitch in Galle that was reportable (at no. 6), he was crucial to the 2nd test win (not mentioned here) and then he was run out by ponting against australia.

Posted by truebleue_cricfan on (February 15, 2012, 9:10 GMT)

Shows what high standards the Aussie selectors expect from their players. The kind of minute analysis done on each player and his specific role in the team is fantastic. India needs such a rigorous approach to its selection policy. If the indian selectors followed the Aussie approach, most members of the current test team would have been chucked out long back.

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 15, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

@Daniel Brettig :- "Khawaja's curious fade"... Ummm, then you go on & put up his last 6 innings which average out to 62.6 ... Ummm, where's the fade?... I'm sure Marsh, Hughes, Ferguson would love to have those stats in recent games... You also fail to address the issue that Khawaja has been thrown into & out of the team without any planning by the selectors & had to play on some very tough pitches while S Marsh had a dream run on flat tracks then got found out at home by an average bowling attack for less than 3 runs/innings...

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 9:03 GMT)

Ponting Clarke Hussey and Haddin all failed with the bat prior to the australian summer

Khawaja outscored all 4 of them in the 2 years before Australia played the first test of the summer in Brisbane.

It's only due to the prejudice that Australia has against younger players that he cannot get a look in.

India suffered the fate against us in the test their aging batsmen cannot play against young bowlers

young batsmen cannot get into Australian or Indian sides because of the ageism and my advice to any young cricketer playing for their state in Australia to buy their way into the national team

because Clarke Ponting, Hussey and Haddin are going nowhere until at least the Ashes in 2015

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 8:34 GMT)

I think your article is a tad unfair, Daniel. Having watched Khawaja play in tests as well as domestic first class games, I cant help but marvel his exquisite timing and shotmaking whether it is beautifull cover drives along the ground, on-drives, delicate flicks off the pads or superb cuts behind point. He has all the shots, the talent and the skill of a truly class player in the making. He has modelled himself on Brian Lara, and while has a long way to go to emulate that great player, does often remind me of a young Lara. There are some elements of the laconic and masterful timing of David Gower. Witness his 121 against SA in the Ryobi Cup here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNRrV6-SEuw and then think again about his talent.

Your comment about gyms and 'fitting in' with the rest of the team does not make any sense. Clearly he is fit and athletic, and trains well. Im not sure if he is being singled out for being a Muslim here, and if so that is discriminatory and predjudiced.

Posted by jeauxx on (February 15, 2012, 7:42 GMT)

I'm not sure it's fair to critisize Usman's scoring rate in Hobart. Coming in at no. 3 he was required to steady the boat after Hughes continually got out cheaply, be a rock as a foil to Warner and build an innings in case of the expected middle order collapse.

I felt the slow rate was due to him trying to get used to a difficult pitch, as well as the fact that there was a lot of pressure on the guy to be the most stable batsman in the whole team.

Posted by ghumkumar on (February 15, 2012, 7:29 GMT)

It's sad that he didn't get enough opportunity. He looked lot better than Dave Warner and certainly better than Shaun Marsh in the test arena. I was told that he doesn't hail from the Sydney's proper cricket fraternity. Who knows?

Posted by Meety on (February 15, 2012, 7:27 GMT)

Interesting article. I think on the whole a little harsh on Khawaja. It was noticeable that he is not a natural short leg fielder, something Cowan appears much better at. I remember similar things said about Jaques & Rogers, although Jaques run-scoring was prolific enough to overlook a modest fielding resume. I still reckon that there is FAR more upside in Khawaja's batting than S Marsh, he is the best of the current bunch. There are other batsmen that are a year or so away from staking a claim, so Ussie will need to put his hand up shortly.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 6:27 GMT)

Well I'am not an Australian and neither a big fan of Khawajas and its hard to know what the softer issues with Khawaja's game is, but just looking at the way he is being dealt with it does seem that he has to stand up to different standards. He looks far more of a test player than Marsh, Cowan. I think it is a general problem that if a guy doesnt come across as a superstar people tend to find faults more easily. Eventually perception matters more than performance.

Posted by Nerk on (February 15, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

Part of the problem facing young Australians coming into the side, players like Ferguson, Marsh and Khwaja, is that they are playing for their place from the word go, Khawaja in particular. He is not assured of his place, indeed the last time he batted he knew that he would not be playing another test for a while no matter what happened. As long as Ponting and Hussey remain in the Australian team, young players cannot come into the squad and play their natural game.

Posted by Busie1979 on (February 15, 2012, 6:07 GMT)

Interesting little dilemma. Best young batsman outside the team (Cooper perhaps?). Yes he needs better fielding to nail that spot. But presumably they already dropped him to send him a message about his fielding. His form is top rate and he should be in the the touring party. His fielding only needs to show gradual signs of improvement and he needs to show work ethic. If there is evidence of both, he should be picked for the first test against WI. I say this even if his fielding is not yet at the required level. I have a feeling the selectors will go for Forrest - and they are testing him out in the ODIs. Forrest needs to show more than a flash in the pan season and is hardly an athlete himself. I hope the selectors don't have double standards here.

Posted by the_flying_squad on (February 15, 2012, 5:49 GMT)

very interesting article. if the rumours are true, I have no problem with him being left out. slack players are a burden for any team and should not be tolerated. let's just hope that he can make the most of his talents, he has the scope to be a very decorated player for australia.

Posted by Boba_Fett on (February 15, 2012, 5:17 GMT)

Interesting take. I would raise two points:

1. You say he's gone backwards over the past year - I presume you're talking about technique? If so, what role has Justin Langer played in this? It does appear that pretty much all the young, inepxerienced batsman that have come into contact with Langer's coaching have deteriorated - Hughes, Marsh and Khawaja. Time to hold Langer accountable I think.

2. Perhaps some of the blame also needs to be sheeted home to the selectors. It does not appear that Khawaja has ever enjoyed their total support. I suspect that in pretty much every Test he played in there was the added pressure that if he didn't score runs 'in this game', he would be dropped. What would have been more useful is for the selectors to say, 'we'll pick you for the season - don't worry if you have the odd low score, we're not going to immediately drop you'.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 5:12 GMT)

dude are you kidding me with this article?? first of all mr. daniel australias batting isnt as great as you think it is after scoring runs against a horrible indian attack, for example the three veterans ricky ponting, mike hussey and clarke are all towards the later stages of their career, especially hussey and ponting and its not like aus has a lot of bench stregnth to their batting if you think marsh is a good enough for international cricket after three horrific displays, based on performance khawaja deserves to be ahead of him. and your talk about backfoot and frontfoot play than please mr brettig , why dont you tell us about how good(being sarcastic) marsh's footwork is seeing how he didnt make any contribution with the bat through the whole indian series against an abismal indian attack. all of your facts are just plain head scratching if you ask me and make no sense

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 5:08 GMT)

He needs to be given a full series without any pressure just like Shaun Marsh. Most of the Australian side was struggling for runs before they played against India. Khawaja needs a similar opportunity too. If Shaun Marsh cannot come into form against a mediocre Indian bowling in Australian conditions then God knows what it would take him to get better. Khawaja has better first class and A list average than him by quite a distance therefore he seems to be a much better prospect for the future.

Posted by bobagorof on (February 15, 2012, 4:58 GMT)

Geez, I'd hate to be the one to condemn a batsman who scores hundreds because he's nervous in his first 10-11 balls. We'd never have seen Ponting. And yet in his first 2 scoring shots (in those 10 balls) he hit a 6. Hmm, Dave Warner anyone? Looks like Khawaja just can't win...

Posted by T.M.M on (February 15, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

So the Australian Selectors did prefer Shaun Marsh over Usman Khwaja in test against India in summer, but they kept giving Shaun chances after chances when he failed after failed. I am sure if Usman Khwaja was playing instead of Shaun, he would have been dropped after second test. Usman should have been given a chance after 4 failed innings by Shaun. What a shame, Australian selectors.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

he will not be selected again by Australian selectors - he is not a full australian - not sure why he was ignored with repeated failures of Marsh

Posted by   on (February 15, 2012, 3:50 GMT)

"Mitchell Johnson too has been inconspicuous by his absence." a) You either have the phrase mixed up. Redundancy jeopardy. Similar to common mistakes like "irregardless" b) Or, you're trying to be too smart by half -- it just seems like an idiomatic violation :-)

Posted by Wallace on (February 15, 2012, 3:36 GMT)

Interesting article. I've wondered all summer why Khawaja wasn't getting selected, this provides some answers. For your next trick, can you explain why Marsh was given such an extended run before the inevitable? With a mediocre at best first class record and a worse test one, what is it that convinces the powers that be of his innate but yet to be expressed talent? For all his faults Hughes has some solid and consistent first class achievements to point to but even he was given less slack than Marsh.

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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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