Have the selectors dented Khawaja’s confidence?
The left-hander could benefit by a vote of confidence from the powers that be
Most cricket fans like to play selector. They know who should be picked and why, and how the selectors don't know that is surprising. However this summer the Australian selectors have got it far more right than wrong.
Bancroft replaced Renshaw and started well in Brisbane, helping Australia get off to a winning start. Paine has been better than either Wade or Neville have been for the last few seasons. Mitchell Marsh replaced Peter Handscomb and has done well in two tests. Playing his strokes to make his first test century in Perth, before knuckling down and helping Australia grind its way to a draw in Melbourne.
However lets go back to 2017 and look at the facts involving Usman Khawaja.
Between his recall to the Australian team in November 2015, to the India tour of 2017, Usman Khawaja played 14 tests, scored 1349 runs at an average 64.23. He was dropped for the first test in India.
Admittedly, his tour to Sri Lanka was a poor one. His 55 runs at 13.75 meant his ability was questioned on dry, turning subcontinent wickets. Despite his excellent returns for 18 months, he was dumped from the Australian team.
It is extremely rare for a player who has averaged 64 over an 18 month period to be dropped. The treatment of Khawaja indeed seems very harsh.
It's history now that the two players that played in front of him, Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh, had very poor tours of India.
It is also fact that other great players have had poor tours to the subcontinent. Ricky Ponting made 105 runs at 21.00 on his Indian first tour in 1998. On his second tour to India in 2001, he managed 11 runs in 3 tests at 3.40 but was never pigeon holed as an 'in Australia only' player, which it seems has happened to Khawaja.
If the same rules applied to Ricky Ponting, the selectors could have said 'Sorry mate, 116 runs in 6 tests at 11.60 in India after two tours, and you score runs for fun in Australia, best we leave you to only play here.' What would that have done to his confidence?
If a batsman is playing test cricket, he doesn't want to be pigeon holed into only playing on some surfaces. His aim is to do well on all surfaces, especially away from home in unfamiliar conditions. To label Khawaja after two poor tests lacked foresight.
Khawaja's immediate aim is to find form and make a big one in Sydney. The selectors, who have had a great summer to be fair, have handled him very poorly. To drop a player who was scoring runs for 18 months was, quite frankly, unfair, especially on the evidence of 2 average tests. Khawaja isn’t the first person to have had two poor tests in a series.
Pressure can be released with runs in Sydney. If it doesn't come, it will be over to the selectors to decide his fate. They've handled him poorly once before, and will need to make a call whether they back him when Australia go to South Africa, or dump him once again.
Making runs can relieve all sorts of pressure for Khawaja, just ask Alastair Cook.