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Time out of the Test team has given Usman Khawaja clarity of mind, with the opener vowing to continue to play with the same freedom for the rest of his career.
Khawaja narrowly missed on a dream century in his first Test in Pakistan on Sunday, falling for 97 in Rawalpindi where he often watched and played cricket as a child.
The 35-year-old’s knock was his third sizeable score since his return in January after a two-year exile, with twin tons in Sydney forcing selectors to keep him in the XI.
His knock on Sunday helped Australia to stumps at 2-271 when bad light stopped play, in reply to Pakistan’s 4-476 on a road in Rawalpindi.
But it was also further proof that Khawaja’s new perspective on cricket has him batting with a clear mind and freedom.
The opener’s innings was far from chanceless – dropped on 22 and 62 – but on both occasions he hit the next ball to the boundary.
He has also arrived with clear plans, ready and wanted to reverse-sweep while also evidently keen to capitalise on loose balls.
“It’s probably because I’ve been out of the system. I was out of Cricket Australia for two years,” Khawaja said.
“I know it’s not the be all and end all any more.
“I had two years out where I thought I wasn’t going to play for Australia again. And they were two really good years, I had a lot of fun.
“My wife and I had a daughter. A lot of good things outside of cricket gives you a lot of perspective.”
Khawaja also said the deaths of Shane Warne and Rod Marsh in recent days as well as floods in Queensland had been another reminder of life outside of cricket.
“All these things end up putting it in perspective,” he said.
“It doesn’t really bother me as much what people say about me too. I’ve been in and out of teams so much. I’ve been dropped and come back.
“I just play the way I want to play. I just think of it as if I’m playing club or Shield cricket back home. That’s how I take it for Australia now.
“I don’t think that will change between now and when I stop playing.”
Khawaja’s 97 came largely as part of a 156-run stand with David Warner (67), before Marnus Labuschagne took over from the pair with his stroke play.
The right-hander got off the mark with a glorious cover drive, and hit eight more boundaries on his way to 69 not out.
Steve Smith was with him at stumps on 24, with Australia eyeing the chance to deep bat into Day 4 to force some chance of a result.
Pakistan, meanwhile, need early wickets with the new ball available after seven overs, if they are to have any chance of capitalising on their big first-innings score.