Left ‘angry and frustrated’ after being sidelined from the national team more than a year ago, Australia’s Usman Khawaja says a frank chat with coach Justin Langer has helped him get over the disappointment and focus on a comeback.
The 33-year-old, who had amassed 1,085 ODI runs at 49.31 last year, didn’t find a place in Australia’s 50-over squad for tours of India and South Africa early in 2019, and was also left out from the 21-man group, which is currently in England for a limited over series.
Khawaja was also not included in the team for the home Test series against Pakistan and New Zealand following his omission from the 2019 Ashes and it has been more than a year since he last played for the national team.
“There was a bigger squad (for the UK white-ball tour) so it was a bit disappointing, but I mean I’ve been dropped and in and out so many times that I’ve just learned to deal with it, much better than I would’ve say 10 years ago,” Khawaja told cricket.com.au.
“I was a lot more disappointed when I first got left out of Indian tour, because at that time I felt like I very much belonged in that team, I was averaging 50 in one-day cricket for that period of time, I was in the top three or four run-scorers for the world in that year, so I didn’t really understand it.
“It was a really frustrating decision, and I was really angry for a period of that time.” Khawaja, who has so far scored 2887 runs and 1554 runs in 44 Tests and 40 ODIs respectively, said a frank conversation with chief coach Langer calmed his mind.
“Fortunately I talked to JL (Langer) about three or four weeks after that happened … and got it all out in the open. It was a really good chat to have, and after that I’ve been really good; I’ve focused again on just worrying about my cricket.
“You want to ask selectors if there’s anything specific that’s sticking out (regarding non-selection) but in this case that’s not it; in this case, I’m a top-order batsman and you’ve got Steve Smith, Dave Warner and the captain, Aaron Finch, ahead of me.
“I was hoping to be a spare batsman in that top order which I thought I might’ve been this (UK tour), but I wasn’t, and that’s OK.” Khawaja said he is close to making a comeback and will look to earn his place back with a good performance in the upcoming season.
“There’s Big Bash, plenty of red-ball cricket, and I still feel like there’s a lot left for me on the horizon, and I’m making sure I’m focusing on that stuff rather than worrying about not being picked because I know how quickly things can change in cricket.
“In four-day and Test match cricket I’ve had really good conversations with JL, too, and at the end of the day, I feel like I’m really close there.
“If I score runs, I put my hand up and give myself the best chance to bat in Test cricket anywhere in that top six. That’s all I can do.”
Khawaja, who has scored 1380 runs in 42 matches for Sydney Thunder in Big Bash League, said he would like to explore a career in the various T20 leagues once he retires from international cricket.