Usman Khawaja isn’t holding his breath that he’ll play in the Boxing Day Test, but the recognition of being back around the Australian team is a confidence booster in itself.
The recalled batsman is on standby for Australian captain Michael Clarke for the second Test against Sri Lanka, but Khawaja tends to think his former NSW skipper will play in Melbourne.
Clarke is racing the clock to recover from a hamstring injury suffered in Hobart, and Khawaja, now a Queensland Bull, has been told by national coach Mickey Arthur to prepare as if he’s going to play at the MCG.
The Pakistan-born Khawaja is determined to soak up the atmosphere of being back in the squad, adamant he is better for his Test axing last summer.
“I was pretty surprised (to be recalled) … I’m just happy to be a part of it. Boxing Day is always a big time of the year. I’m glad to be a part of the Australian team at this time and to be part of the preparation,” said Khawaja, who was on standby for Ricky Ponting for a Boxing Day Test two summers ago.
“I know from Pup (Clarke), he doesn’t want to miss any games. As you’ve seen he’s had a lot of issues with his body throughout his career and he’s always got it on the park. He’s a tough cookie.
“I’ll just have to wait and see.”
The 26-year-old said a switch to Queensland this season to work under former Test batsman and Bulls coach Darren Lehmann, as well as an earlier stint in English county cricket, has improved his Test credentials.
Khawaja has five Tests to his name, but was dropped from the side after a lean run against New Zealand last December.
Like fellow left-hander Phil Hughes who was recalled for Hobart, Khawaja has done the hard yards at Sheffield Shield level this season and demanded he be looked at again by selectors.
Khawaja says he was shattered to be dropped, but has used it as motivation.
“You have a lot of things go through your head, but I talked to a lot of people and obviously had a lot of time to myself. I knew what I had to do to become a better player,” he said.
“I think I’ve grown as a player and as a person. I’ve got a few more experiences under my belt.
“Going to England this year was really helpful just to get away from everything … that helped me clear my mind and just play cricket.
“Going up to Queensland is probably the best option for me. Facing a few bowlers, facing the red ball and just getting my head back into four day cricket.”