‘Enjoy the ride’: Usman Khawaja’s fairytale comeback has just begun

Usman Khawaja’s fairytale return was arguably the highlight of the recent summer of cricket, and the Australian opener cherishes every moment of the unexpected final chapter of his rejuvenated Test career.

Khawaja assumed his testing career was over after being sacked from the Australian side during the 2019 Ashes series – the talented southpaw seemed destined to fade into obscurity and ply his trade at the domestic level, as national selectors take their pick. cast support behind Joe Burns and Marcus Harris.

But after a purple spot in the Sheffield Shield, the Queenslander earned a surprise call-up to the Test squad for last summer’s Ashes series, where he served as the team’s reserve batter.

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Khawaja also needed a dose of luck to end his two-year test exile – he made it into Australia’s starting XI for the New Year’s Test in Sydney after team-mate Travis Head tested positive for Covid-19.

Initially slated to replace one Test, Khawaja made sure not to drop himself by peeling back two centuries at the SCG, scoring 137 and an unbeaten 101 in the thrilling draw against England.

And since then, Khawaja has been nothing short of remarkable in Australian creams.

The 35-year-old has scored 888 runs at 98.66 in seven games since the January comeback Test, which saw Australia take a historic 1-0 win over Pakistan in March.

For the first time in his award-winning career, Khawaja is not worried about being named in the next test squad – in his eyes every match is a bonus.

His priorities have shifted from cricket, somewhat counterintuitively increasing his love of the game.

“At this point in my career I’m so relaxed; I’m just enjoying the ride,” he told reporters in Sydney on Saturday morning.

“These are all bonuses. I didn’t expect to play Test Match Cricket again…I’m not holding on to it as strongly as I was before.

“I have two beautiful daughters, I have a wife, I have a lot outside the game that I am very happy with.

“I used to get a lot of people coming up to me and saying, ‘Uzzie, you’re so serious, you’re so serious all the time’. I’m actually not that serious. I try to make a conscious effort to show people the real Uzzie.”

Khawaja confessed that this relaxed mindset “certainly” helped him become a better cricketer in the twilight of his career.

“It gives you the best chance of being more successful,” he explained.

“But ultimately it’s a skill-based game. If you don’t hit the center of the bat or don’t do the hard work, it doesn’t matter what position you’re in.

“One season is not the other.”

When asked if he wanted to retire, Khawaja replied: “The People’s Champion will just keep giving as long as people want it.”

Earlier this year, Khawaja signed a four-year deal with the Brisbane Heat after parting ways with the Sydney Thunder, for which he was a regular.

He remains the Thunder’s all-time leading scorer with 1,818 runs and a Big Bash career strike rate of 129.85.

Despite holding one of the strongest short-format records in the country, Khawaja recognizes that his chances of making it into the T20 World Cup squad are slim.

Australian captain Aaron Finch and T20 powerhouse David Warner will team up at the top of the order, while all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been a revelation since sliding to the No. 3 position last year.

“Maybe I need 17 injuries, then I might have a chance,” Khawaja laughed.

“I love T20 cricket, I am very excited to play for the Heat this year.

“If you look at our T20 team, we have clearly been very successful.

“We’re going in there as one of the favorites, so I’m excited to see how the guys handle it.”

The T20 World Cup kicks off in October, with Australia’s first game against New Zealand at the SCG on October 22.

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