Usman Khawaja Belongs at the Top Level

Usman Khawaja celebrates his century at the SCG.

As Usman Khawaja rocked onto the back foot and defended a fiery and quick Mark Wood- you just knew. This man has class. If you were a first-time cricket viewer you would be forgiven to think that he may have been one of Australia’s talisman. However, he was on return after a few years. Khawaja’s job was not to look good but to score good amounts of runs, the point being, Khawaja belongs at the international level.

On his return to test-match cricket, Khawaja became only the fourth Australian to score two centuries in the same Ashes test match. He shared this feat with the likes of Steve Smith, Matthew Hayden and Steve Waugh. Khawaja picked up the man of the match with returns of 137 and 101*. To put this into perspective- Steve Smith hasn’t scored a century for nearly a year and Khawaja has two of the five centuries in this current Ashes series. It was pure domination from a man who has always belonged at this level.

Many people forget- perhaps even the selectors that Khawaja was the player who stepped up in the absence of Smith and Warne due to the ‘sandpaper gate’ incident. From the ban of the two Aussies stars to their first test match on return, Khawaja scored 599 runs at 42.79 which included a gruesome away tour against Pakistan in the UAE in hot conditions which were conducive to spin bowling. This is a record most players would be proud of. Man for a crisis? Khawaja was called in on emergency services as Australia’s ODI side continued to degrade in quality following a 5-0 loss to England and a 2-1 loss to South Africa.

Khawaja was back in the coloured outfit for the home series against India at the end part of 2018. Since his return he played 22 games, including 9 in the 2019 World Cup- scoring 1085 runs @ an average of 49.32. This included 2 series against India, a heavyweight limited-overs side in which he had 2 centuries and one score of 90 in a famous 3-2 win for Australia in India. His World Cup campaign ended prematurely due to a serious hamstring injury- Khawaja hasn’t played an ODI since. His performances have never suggested that he hasn’t belonged.

One can simply trackback to his debut match as a further testament to this. Khawaja debuted in extraordinary circumstances- Ricky Ponting was injured and England had just won the Ashes in Australian soil, that too in commanding fashion. Khawaja came out and played a commanding pull shot off Chris Tremlett. Ironically, it was as crisp as a Ponting pull shot. He only made 37 but Aussie fans were licking their lips at the prospect of Khawaja’s career. Since then, Khawaja has played 45 test matches with an average of 42 and 10 centuries. This included having constant periods from 2015-18 where he wasn’t in the side before finally being dropped for two years. One must think there may have been off-field issues for a record like that to be excluded.

But perhaps not. “Khawaja is a man at complete peace with his life” and may boast the best-media personality in Cricket. The wisdom which resonates from his interviews, the humility which complements it. In fact, after his record-breaking performance yesterday, Khawaja was quite aware of the fact that “he probably won’t play next game”. There are no off-field issues. His mentality has also belonged to and met the professional demands of international cricket. The beauty of Khawaja’s resurgence is that he is just enjoying his cricket. If the selectors are willing, Khawaja might just be able to leave a firm stamp a final mark on the world game.

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