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Khawaja rides highs and lows of tough tour

Australia batsman out to end on a high in final T20 before turning attention to leading Queensland in the Matador Cup

Nearing the close of what he concedes has been a "tough tour" of Sri Lanka, both individually and collectively, Usman Khawaja holds few fears of what awaits him largely because he's trodden that path before.

Khawaja will join his Australia T20 squad mates in heading home after the final match of this fluctuating tour on Friday evening, but doesn't expect to rejoin them for the month-long Qantas ODI Tour of South Africa that immediately follows.

Despite indications from selection chair Rod Marsh that Khawaja is effectively on standby should either of the specialist batters currently nursing finger fractures – Shaun Marsh and Aaron Finch – fail to make muster, Khawaja believes the duo will be passed fit to play against the Proteas. 


And while he hopes his name will be among those inked in for the first Test of the home summer against South Africa in Perth in early November, he understands that losing his place last month due to a paucity of runs against Sri Lanka has lengthened the odds of that happening.

But the 29-year-old takes a pragmatically philosophical view of the scenarios he now faces, and notes that his fall from the Test team might be easier to address with a full home summer ahead of him than it would have been if form had deserted him six months later, at season's end.

In addition, it's not like building up to a pivotal season with runs to score and points to prove is uncharted territory for the left-hander who enjoyed the form of his life last summer but still found himself on the outer when ODI squads were being selected.

"I'm pretty excited for what's coming up still," Khawaja said in Colombo today where the second and final T20 International against Sri Lanka will be played before a sell-out crowd at the R Premadasa Stadium on Friday.

"I love playing cricket, even the times when you're struggling and it's not fun.

"Without the lows you don't get the highs, that's part of sport and that's part of cricket and it's what makes this game so much fun.

"So I'm looking forward to getting back (to Australia).

"Obviously I'm not in the one-day set-up, I'm on standby I'm assuming for a couple of the batsmen so I'll go back and play some cricket for Queensland.

"I'll at least be playing cricket, I haven't really played a lot of cricket in the last month or so because I was out of the Test team and then I wasn't in the one-day team in the start (of the series in Sri Lanka)."

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The fact that Khawaja has been involved in the T20 Series that followed Australia's 0-3 drubbing in the Tests and their 4-1 victory in the ODI campaign provides him with a timely reminder of how quickly fortunes can change.

He was not initially included in the squad for the pair of T20 internationals here despite his stellar form in last summer's KFC Big Bash League and his inclusion for the World T20 tournament in India earlier this year.

But the injury to Shaun Marsh during the third match of the ODI Series in Dambulla saw him subbed in for the final two games of that tournament and also kept on for the 20-over fixtures.

Even though his four-innings aggregate of 55 in the first two Tests against Sri Lanka, and more relevantly the manner of his dismissals in the second of those when he was clean bowled twice in similar fashion on the same day, had seen him axed for the final Test and overlooked at the start of the ODIs.

On the evening that the T20 squad was finalised, Khawaja was seen holding a lengthy conversation with Rod Marsh outside the Australia dressing room at Premadasa, but when asked about that chat today he claimed the pair were discussing possible options for dinner that night.

Even though it had already ticked past 10pm.

"There's a lot of restaurants around here, so we were just trying to figure that out," Khawaja said today, with only a hint of a smile.

"We both had the chat we were going to have, and it was good."

If that exchange included insights to the selection panel's thinking for the line-up they'll take into that first Test against South Africa at the WACA Ground, then Khawaja wasn't about to publicly divulge them.

Khawaja keen to keep even keel after tough tour

However, he did acknowledge that the panel (which also includes coach Darren Lehmann, Mark Waugh and Trevor Hohns) has already formed a reasonably clear idea of how the XI for that match will look, given there is only one round of Sheffield Shield matches for players to push their claims before the squad is named.

"I don't even feel that I'm not amongst it," Khawaja said asked if he felt he needed some hefty scores in the Matador Cup and Shield opener to be back amongst the reckoning for a Test recall.

"I think the selectors already have a fairly good idea of what they're going to pick for the first Test anyway.

"I don't think a lot's going to change from now to then unless something really drastic happens.

"At the moment, yeah I've missed out a couple of times but that happens as a cricketer.

"You just keep working hard and doing things off the field and the other stuff takes control.

"I'm not really worried. I've learned from the last few years the more I worry about myself the less good cricket I play."

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Despite becoming a casualty (along with fellow Queenslander Joe Burns) of the Test failure and pocketing a pair of single-figure scores when he was recalled to the ODI line-up for games four and five, Khawaja takes both positive and negative memories from his nine weeks in Sri Lanka.

And while those experiences are expected to hold him and Australia's other top-order batters in better stead should they make the cut for the four-Test tour to India next February and March, Khawaja doesn't want to elaborate on the good or the bad.

With so much water to flow through the upcoming Tests (against South Africa and Pakistan), ODIs (South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan) and T20 Internationals (Sri Lanka) before that flight leaves for India in February, his focus stretches no further than the next game after Friday's final outing in Colombo.

Whether that be for Australia in South Africa, Queensland in the Matador Cup or his Brisbane Premier Cricket club in the midst of a hectic schedule.

"There's a lot, both in the good and bad column," Khawaja said of his Sri Lanka experience.

"It would be silly not to reflect back on this tour and take some positives and negatives out of that.

"But it (the India Test tour) is so far way at the moment, it's hard to think about it.

"There's so much cricket coming up this summer that you just want to focus on what's ahead because as a team and as individuals, if we don't do that right there's no point thinking about India.

"India is also a very tough place to play cricket for any international team.

"It just seems like a very far away place right now, and I'm not looking that far ahead."

Meg Lanning Steve Smith