According to Mark Waugh in one of his commentary stints during the BBL final Usman Khawaja is currently batting better than Brian Lara.
It was Khawaja’s sublime man-of-the-match winning and title-securing innings of 70 off 57 balls in the BBL finale that had Waugh digging for superlatives. What he came up with was the Lara comparison.
It was a massive call and certainly an intriguing one.
Over the years Waugh has been somewhat of a master of understatement.
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Unlike many recently retired players he does not simply anoint every Tom, Dick and Harry as being a great, a legend or a superstar.
So when he made the comment about Khawaja’s rich vein of form it was certainly a big call and one that really stood out.
More so when you consider that he is a member of Cricket Australia’s national selection panel.
However, two days after Khawaja’s innings which ended Sydney Thunder’s BBL drought, he was nowhere to be seen when Australia launched its T20 campaign against India at Adelaide Oval.
He had not been selected in the squad.
He was rushed into the side for the third and final game of the series in Sydney as a replacement at the top of the order for injured skipper Aaron Finch.
Khawaja made 14 off six balls before being caught behind.
He is currently part of the ODI squad for the three matches against New Zealand.
That series started yesterday at Auckland – sans Khawaja – with Australia copping an embarrassing 159-run hiding.
When Steve Smith announced the starting XI for the Eden Park encounter social media was quick to reverberate with the fact that Khawaja was not one of those named.
How could he not be there when one of the selectors just two weeks ago said he was batting better than Lara?
So what happened?
Was Waugh merely trying to be entertaining or provocative with his call on Khawaja? Was he outvoted at the selection table for the T20 series against India? Or are those currently playing short-form cricket for Australia all performing better than Lara as well?
The fact that the ODI and T20 teams have lost five consecutive games would indicate that the latter theory has been debunked although doubtless it ever existed.
Which leaves the other two possibilities – Waugh was attempting to be controversial or his glowing assessment of Khawaja was not as keenly felt by his fellow selectors.
Either way, it is a debate that should not be taking place.
Having a selector working as a commentator is never a good thing.
In fact, it should be a stipulation made by Cricket Australia when it appoints someone to the panel.
Selectors should not be commentating on the players they are paid to hire and fire.
There is no good that can come from it.
Over the years I have witnessed some cringeworthy television where the likes of Mark Waugh and Allan Border have been wearing both hats.
Their fellow commentators bait them and try to get them to answer questions about why so-and-so is not playing or whether an incumbent is on thin ice by dint of recent performances.
What can a selector really say in such a situation?
Worse still perhaps is when, as Waugh did of his own volition, a selector makes a stratospheric judgement and waxes lyrical about the form of a player and within a few days the said individual is nowhere to be seen when squads are announced or team lists released.
Everyone is short changed when a selector is also a commentator – the selector himself, the audience and most importantly the players he is being paid to talk about.
No selector can truly speak openly and yet that is what his media employer is paying him to do.
We want commentators who can call it as they see it while the selectors’ job it is to pick the team.
The two cannot be one.
It is time Cricket Australia realised that too.