I'm one of the top six batsmen in the country: Khawaja
Usman Khawaja is not taking his latest snub lying down, boldly declaring he's still worthy of inclusion in the Test top six
Dave Middleton with AAP
4 May 2020, 06:43 PM AEST
Usman Khawaja has vowed to fight his way back into the Australian Test reckoning, declaring he believes he's worthy of inclusion in the top six.
Khawaja has not featured for Australia since being dropped for the fourth Test at Old Trafford in last year's Ashes series.
He had also fallen out of favour in Australia's one-day plans after playing a key role in last year's World Cup and was omitted from the side that lost series in India and South Africa this year.
His latest blow came last week when he was left off the list of 20 men's players handed national contracts by Cricket Australia, a message from selectors that he was a long way back in their plans for the coming year.
The 33-year-old who debuted in the 2011 New Year's Test against England has played 44 Tests and 40 ODIs, and insisted he still has plenty to offer at the highest level.
"Age is just a number and if you're performing, you're performing; it's not like I'm 37 or 38 and coming into right at the end of my career," Khawaja said on Fox Sports.
Khawaja added he has squashed concerns about his fitness, being "lazy" and an alleged weakness against spin bowling.
"Without sounding arrogant, I still feel like I'm one of the top six batsmen in the country," Khawaja said.
"My playing against spin has been right up there as some of the best in the county. Bar maybe Steve Smith, who is an absolute genius.
"But the most important thing is to score runs."
Khawaja stepped up his fitness kick in the wake of the Cape Town scandal that saw him become the most experienced player in the Test side, shedding 7kg to become lighter, faster and stronger.
Later that year he played one of the most important knocks of his life with an epic fourth-innings century of 141 in the Dubai Test against Pakistan, batting 302 balls across the fourth and fifth days to help secure a draw.
Khawaja's early career was marked by inconsistency in selection as much as his batting. He played only 9 of the first 30 Tests before he was dropped midway through the 2013 Ashes, and spent the next 18 months out of the side, during which he had a knee reconstruction.
His recall in November 2015 saw him dominate New Zealand and West Indies in a gleeful home summer as he hit a career-high 174 at the Gabba in his first Test back.
After starring in that home summer he was jettisoned in Sri Lanka after failures in the first two Tests, but returned for the home summer series to play all six Tests against South Africa and Pakistan as the team went through a renewal.
He was sidelined again for the captivating 2017 Test series in India, and when recalled for the first Test in Bangladesh was just as quickly jettisoned again for the second.
Back on home turf he was immediately recalled and played all five Tests in the 2017-18 summer against England, and all four of that fateful South Africa tour.
From that last recall he had played every Test until discarded after Headingley, squeezed out by the stunning arrival of state teammate Marnus Labuschagne and the return from concussion of Steve Smith.
The latest axing will have cut deep, but for Khawaja it's not unfamiliar territory.
"I've been through it all, I've seen a lot of different coaches, and I've been in and out of the team a lot – especially in my younger years," Khawaja told cricket.com.au in 2018.
"I've learnt to just realise there are some things you can't control."
It was at that point Khawaja changed his mindset, and shut out the external noise.
"This is the first time I haven't really given a crap about what anyone else thinks – I'm doing this for myself, trying to be the best version of myself, and I've been enjoying it," he said then.
It led to a more outspoken, more forthright Khawaja. The public saw it in the Amazon Prime documentary The Test when Khawaja confronted Justin Langer over training tactics ahead of the Dubai Test, and spoke up again during a team meeting after the Boxing Day Test defeat to India.
National Selector Trevor Hohns said Khawaja was "unlucky" and the toughest cut for the three-man selection panel when handing out national contracts.
"If I'm looking at Test cricket, Usman's form in Sheffield Shield cricket didn't demand he was chosen for Australia," National Selector Trevor Hohns said today.
"I think that's fair.
"In one-day cricket he didn't play for Australia despite being in very good form in the Marsh Cup. But the area he operates in, like a couple of other unlucky omissions, is up the top.
"We're pretty well looked after up there with Aaron Finch, David Warner, Steve Smith and now Marnus Labuschagne.
"It was a difficult time for him.
"Uzzie was the hardest (decision) because he was ranked in two of the three formats, but just fell out of the bottom of the list.
"We know Usman is a fabulous player, I don't have any doubts he'll accept the challenge to get back into the Australian side.
"He's been pretty good player for Australia, unfortunately the last 12 months hasn't been his best."