Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
'I'm still very much in the mix': Khawaja
The Queensland captain believes he still good enough to play Test cricket with his journey far from over
22 April 2021, 05:58 PM AEST
While Usman Khawaja is expected to miss out on a CA contract for the second straight year, he believes he can return to the Australia Test team and be one of the world's top batsmen.
Khawaja hasn't played for Australia since the infamous third Test of the 2019 Ashes, putting a halt on his 44-Test career that started at the SCG against England in 2011.
The classy left-hander led Queensland to Marsh Sheffield Shield glory this summer and averaged 59 with the bat for the Bulls, but was not included in Australia's Test squad against India as the selectors blooded young guns Cameron Green and Will Pucovski.
But the 34-year-old has been in constant discussion with the selection panel and was an emergency reserve for the South Africa Test tour in February-March that was ultimately called off.
Given his recent form, vast experience and track record in Australia, where he has scored six of his eight Test hundreds and averages 53, Khawaja says he is "right there" for a recall.
"I reckon I'm still very much in the mix," Khawaja told The Unplayable Podcast.
"I'm playing some really good cricket at the moment. I think if I start off really well next (season), there's a big Ashes coming up, I think I'm still very much in the scope.
"But at the end of the day, cricket is a very tough game and you don't want to end up thinking too far ahead of yourself.
"If you start thinking about international cricket and forget about what cricket is right ahead of you … I know that's a recipe for failure.
"I'm loving the game, I'm still really enjoying it, I'm super competitive and I want to score lots of runs, do well for my team and all that stuff."
Fortunately for Khawaja, there are spots up for grabs in the Test top six.
Steve Smith (2nd), Marnus Labuschagne (3rd) and David Warner (10th) are ranked in the top 10 Test batters in the world and are locks in the XI, while allrounder Green looks set to occupy No.6 after an impressive international debut this summer and gargantuan Shield season with Western Australia.
Young gun Pucovksi appears to be Australia's first-choice partner for Warner at the top of the order but missed games this season through concussion and a shoulder injury that cut short his maiden Test series and ruled him out for the rest of the summer.
With Matthew Wade overlooked for the South Africa tour, the No.5 spot could fall to Travis Head, who was dropped in the India series but dominated the back-end of the Shield season to finish just behind Green on the run-scorer's charts.
But Head hasn't been able to cement a spot so far in his career, and with Pucovski recovering from shoulder surgery, the door could be open for Khawaja.
However, he will have to wait to see which way the cards fall given Australia are not scheduled to play Test match cricket until next summer.
But Khawaja says the motivation, desire and belief is still as strong as ever.
"I think I'm still good enough to be in that Australian team, plain and simple," he said.
"My motivation is still there, I still think I can be in the top six batsmen in the country, I can perform and I can be one of the best.
"I still feel that I can be a top batsman in the world at the moment.
"If that feeling ever goes away or I'm feeling like 'nah, it's not' then I'll probably have to re-think my international aspirations at least.
"I've played against some really good opposition this year in the Sheffield Shield against Test bowlers, against top-quality players and I'm still feeling really good, still scoring runs and still feeling in the contest.
"Most of all, I'm still enjoying my cricket. That's the most important thing.
"There's no point playing the game if you're not enjoying it.
"If I still have that feeling in my belly, that competition, then I'm in a good place."
Should a Test recall come, Khawaja would be an old hat in the XI, behind captain Tim Paine (36) and Warner (34) as the oldest player in the side.
While he is closer to the end of his career than the start, Khawaja says he has plenty more gas in the tank.
"I still see myself, at 34 years old, still having three, four more years," he said.
"I've got no doubt that if I'm feeling the way I'm feeling right now that I'll be motivated and competitive enough … and doing everything I have to.
"I don't think this is anywhere near the end of my journey yet. And hopefully a couple more Shields left to win with the boys, fingers crossed."