31/05/2024

Usman Khawaja is set to be back in a baggy green with Travis Head being unavailable for the Sydney test (Photo - Cricket Australia)

Usman Khawaja has had to work hard to return to the Australian test team fold over the past few seasons. He's now back, and is excited to potentially don the baggy green again at the SCG.

Everything is happening quickly for Usman Khawaja, who is now on the precipice of a return to the Australian test team for the Sydney New Year’s Ashes test.

Khawaja was originally on the verge of selection in the number five batting spot for the start of the Ashes series, but the selectors decided to go with Travis Head and were instantly rewarded when the in-form South Australian blitzed a match-winning ton in Brisbane.

Yet Khawaja was unfazed by the narrow miss, instead, taking a balanced mindset into his supporting role so far in the series.

With Head now set to miss the Sydney test due to testing positive to COVID-19, the Queenslander is ready to fill in the number five role next week.

“It was probably one of the longest days I’ve had traveling,” Khawaja said upon finding out about the news.

“I was supposed to leave mid-morning, it was probably the longest day I’ve had in Australian transit.”

It’s a sweet moment that’s looming for Khawaja, who will return to test cricket at his old home ground in the SCG, where he famously made his debut against England in the final test of the failed 2010/11 Ashes series.

Now over ten years have passed since his first game with the baggy green, but the Queensland skipper is just as excited about returning to the harbour city.

“I love Sydney, it’s where I grew up, my family is here and lots of friends and memories are here – every time I come back to Sydney, I really enjoy it,” he said.

“The SCG is the home of cricket, if I do get a chance to play test cricket then it’s always very exciting, even more so at the SCG where my old home is.”

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Although Khawaja’s first test back since the third Ashes Test in 2019 will come after a month of touring with the test side as a squad member (which the 35-year-old admitted may make him initially “out of sync”), he believes he is now mature enough as a player to adjust.

It may “always be nicer when coming off games”, Khawaja is confident that if he “plays and bats for half an hour” then he should “find that sync”, especially when he’s been “as ready as can be on the sidelines”.

Even if he makes a blistering century or fails with the bat, the veteran won’t be too worried about his playing future. With a test tour overseas to Pakistan on the horizon, Khawaja is confident he can still maintain his spot in the Aussie test squad.

“I haven’t looked too far ahead, to be honest – even if I do play it could only be for one game, I understand the situation as I’ve been in it before,” Khawaja said.

“For me, it’s not too much different – we’ve got these two games then some overseas tours later in the year.”

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“I’m just putting my head down, working hard, and doing the best I can for Australia at every opportunity.”

Khawaja is relaxed about the rest of his waning career, comfortable with the way his body is feeling and how he is performing. Regardless of what opportunities he gets for Australia going forward, he’ll be happy with how he has worked hard to return to the national squad over the past few seasons.

“I’m training really hard, I potentially have one game for Australia here, but it won’t be the be and end-all, it’s only one game at the end of the day,” Khawaja said.

“I’ve done a lot of hard work to get to this point, and hopefully I can get out there and score a hundred and do what I can for the team.”

“Cricket’s a funny game, you don’t want to look too far ahead in life or cricket.”

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