“There were plenty of times where I thought ‘no, this is too hard, it’s not going to happen, I’m not getting any chances’, but luckily I’m very stubborn and I have quite a thick skin and I just kept pushing.” , pushing because I love the game and want to do it well.”
When Khawaja returned between 2015 and 2019, he did things much more his own way, carried influences more clearly from the NBA and elsewhere, and cared much less what people thought of him.
Nevertheless, he would still have seemed an unfulfilled talent as the harsh decision to drop him on a tour of England – immediately after captaining Australia in a Derbyshire tour match – had made Khawaja’s final run.
Where Khawaja’s earlier evolution had been only partial, the batsman who was recalled for the Sydney Test in January had used a few more years in the domestic ranks to find a sweet spot where making runs and winning matches was the side effect of a happy life, not the cause.
Batting at a graceful, steady pace all year round, Khawaja has scored highly influential points against England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, with a return leg against South Africa following. At 35 years old, he performs in ways that have impressed and, in some cases, puzzled his former critics.
At Adelaide, Khawaja was pinned on the shoulder by West Indies spearhead Alzarri Joseph, but responded by pulling his next short ball to Adelaide’s short square boundary.
His innings was another example of good hitting against a moving ball, allowing Marnus Lauschagne and Travis Head to take advantage as the pink ball aged. Declared lbw to Devon Thomas from the wicket, Khawaja’s departure was debatable.
Throughout it all, Khawaja has been a steadfast friend of Warner’s, appreciating how his opening partner’s efforts to push his own evolution and betterment have been held back by repeated appeals to that 2018 Newlands locker room and its secrets.
At the time, Khawaja had famously argued that the team should accept collective responsibility for what had taken place on the pitch, and stick together as the players had during the wage dispute with Cricket Australia the previous year.
As it was, Khawaja didn’t bear the room and saw the much less experienced Tim Paine appointed as Test captain the next day – another ominous moment for Australian cricket.
Leader or not, Khawaja has built one of the most remarkable Test careers in Australian history. In terms of the example he sets for an increasingly diverse Australian population, none has been more important in the last 40 years.
And much of it wouldn’t have happened without Khawaja’s own evolution, in line with the second chances awarded to him by the national selection committee. Second chances that he and all his teammates now wish had been more easily awarded to Warner.
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