Khawaja becomes Aussies’ form ODI batsman
Justin Langer remembers the moment Usman Khawaja outlined his desperation to play one-day cricket for Australia again.
It came long before his man-of-the-series effort in India, where he scored 383 runs – more than Virat Kohli and more than any other batsman has managed in a five-match ODI series against India.
In-form Australian batsman Usman Khawaja.Credit:AP
Langer was sitting in the driveway of his home in Perth last year, a few days after being appointed Darren Lehmann's successor as national coach.
"He was one of the first people I spoke to. He wanted to know where he was at with white-ball cricket," Langer recalled after Khawaja's match-winning century in the Delhi decider.
"I just said the reality is I don't want you to get fit to tick a box or to please me, [then high performance manager] Pat Howard, Queensland Cricket or Cricket Australia.
"'Do it so you can run harder between the wickets and field better because we know you're talented.
"What a credit it is to him, where he's come from to where he is now with the way he's transformed his body."
Khawaja shed eight kilograms last winter and was recalled to the one-day squad in January, ending two years in 50-over exile.
The left-hander has now seemingly cemented his spot in Australia's World Cup squad, producing scores of 50, 38, 104, 91 and 100 against India's star-studded attack in the 3-2 series win.
"He was rewarded for it and he's paying us back in spades," Langer said.
Langer praised the 32-year-old's ability to manipulate the field and pick gaps with ease, also highlighting a catch in the deep during the final ODI as evidence of his improved fielding.
"He hits the ball in a lot of different areas. I imagine he's quite hard to set a field to," he said.
"He's probably got the temperament for one-day cricket because he's pretty relaxed."
Provided Khawaja maintains form during the five-match series against Pakistan starting on March 22, the only question is where he will bat at the World Cup.
David Warner and Aaron Finch had been expected to open in England, a role Khawaja excelled at in India.
"There's a long time between now and the World Cup," he said, unwilling to speculate.
"If you look too far ahead you get in trouble.
"It's really satisfying to come back to the one-day side and contribute but even more satisfying to get that series win."
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