Alright, let’s have it out – why won’t they select Usman Khawaja as an Australian representative cricketer?
I do not buy into the theory that Khawaja’s selection woes have anything to do with his birthplace or his beliefs. That’s a crock.
Australian sport has had no trouble selecting a diverse range of athletes across a myriad of sports. And when Khawaja made his Test debut back in 2011, he was hardly the first Muslim to play for a prominent Australian team.
Amongst others, many would recognise the respected names of Hazem El Masri and Bachar Chouli from Australia’s two most popular footballing codes.
In a way, they were both Islamic pioneers in their field in Australia – much like Ussie Khawaja. And Australia by and large have accepted these players as what they are – accomplished Australian athletes.
Imagining some kind of entrenched racist conspiracy at Cricket Australia headquarters becomes much less credible in this context, especially when you consider that even Khawaja himself feels that his beliefs have been a non-issue in his career.
Nonetheless, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that something insidious is holding him back.
Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur have implored the public to see the recent suspensions of four players, including Khawaja, in the proper context of a series of indiscretions that, considered as a whole, indicate a much more serious situation than each incident on its own. Fair enough.
Well I view Khawaja’s non-selections in a similar light; potentially trivial when each incidence is taken on its own, but far more concerning when considered in the proper context of a series of often baffling snubbings – and not always in favour of other batsmen!
It is true that he didn’t exactly bring the house down in the handful of Tests that he has played for Australia. But having said that, it certainly couldn’t be said he was a meek failure.
It’s been mentioned before, but his first 11 innings yielded a better average to start his career than did Justin Langer’s, Damien Martyn’s, and even Stephen Waugh’s.
Had the catch been taken on Ricky Ponting’s very first ball of Test cricket, I could have added Ponting’s name to that list of players who had worse starts to their careers than Khawaja.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Khawaja is a better player than any of the above, mark you. I just wish to point out the absurdity in the argument that his form at the highest level hasn’t been good enough to justify selection.
Even now, there are players in Mohali wearing the baggy green who have had worse starts to their career than UTK. Ed Cowan, for example.
So what is it? Khawaja’s run-scoring in the Shield has been nothing if not consistently satisfactory – and certainly better than the vast majority of his competitors, some of whom have been selected ahead of him.
He has worked on his technique with commendable application. He moved state to train under Darren Lehmann, one of the best technical coaches the state of Queensland has ever been blessed with.
He even spent some time in Derbyshire to shore up his approach to batting on green wickets against Australia’s alleged kryptonite – quality swing bowling.
Did it do him any good? You tell me.
I was very disappointed to hear of his latest exclusion from the squad, and even more so to read so many comments on cricket forums, including the Roar, which had the temerity to suggest he was lazy.
As though one forgotten assignment undoes all of the hard work that he has put into his career to get to where he is now!
It remains to be seen whether he will be selected for the fourth Test of this Indian tour, but I am confident he will prove his value if the selectors allow him to string as many matches together as they have generously allowed Cowan and Phil Hughes.
Note the ‘if’.
We have seen too many good cricketers in the form of their lives regularly overlooked to have any confidence that the selectors will right their wrongs. Michael Di Venuto, Damien Martyn, Brad Hodge…
Let us just hope that Khawaja’s stay in the ‘Ian Brayshaw-Jamie Cox club’ is a non-renewing membership.