Usman Khawaja represents the much-needed transition in Australian cricket
The Australian cricket team of the late 1990s and 2000s was truly outstanding.
In fact, ever since the Aussies won the 1987 Cricket World Cup as underdogs, a golden era of performance era and results was ushered in, but it was under the captaincy of Steve Waugh, with Messrs Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Langer and Ponting among others, that the Australian cricket team really became legendary.
Synonymous with that side, was a testosterone-fuelled alpha-male persona that was deemed to go hand-in-hand with the Baggy Greens.
Fast forward to 2018 however and Cricket Australia is perceived to be in decline.
Results have been inconsistent for a number of years and behaviour off the pitch has caused a number concerns, notably with homework-gate in 2013 and David Warner’s punch on Joe Root in a bar in Birmingham. But the debacle that still feels so raw – the ball-tampering scandal of earlier this year – has marked perhaps the lowest point in memorable Australian Cricket history.
Much has gone wrong for the Australian Cricket team in recent years and inevitably when things go wrong, people look for somebody to blame.
The refined and respectable Usman Khawaja is perhaps an easy scapegoat therefore, particularly after an inexplicable run-out in the first test against Bangladesh in Dhaka in August 2017. That match ended with humiliating Australia defeat – an upset that sent shockwaves through cricket – and the Pakistani-born Khawaja publically received a lambasting for his contribution, with calls that he couldn’t handle the pressure as the Aussie’s No. 3. Yet, even in the wake of the much bigger crimes committed by Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft in South Africa, Khawaja has seemingly remained somewhat unloved, perhaps because he doesn't fit the sledging, rumbustious mould than an Australian cricketer is supposed to be cut from?
That was at least until Khawaja's test match heroics against his birth land in Dubai last week, as the 31-year-old left-hander hit a remarkable 141 runs, spending almost nine hours in front of the wicket as he salvaged an unlikely draw for Australia in the first test against Pakistan.
Australia were staring defeat in the face with 140 overs to survive and 462 runs to chase down, but Khawaja’s feat of endurance sparked celebration amongst Australian fans as it saved the match. That came after Usman had already hit an impressive eighty-five in the first innings, with this test match possibly marking a career-defining moment for Khawaja and the point at which he silenced his critics.
Pakistan currently stand in a commanding position to win the second test after an Australian batting collapse on day 2 allowed the Shaheens to reach a 281 run lead at stumps on Wednesday evening.
Heading into day 3, Pakistan were as short as 1/25 to take a series lead - a best priced 1/16 with 888 - with Australia as long as 25/1 outsiders with the same bookie.
Khawaja is priced at 14/1 to be named man of the match and if you fancy a punt you can enjoy the 888sport betting offer available for this game and get yourself a free bet.
Khawaja was unable to repeat last week’s knock in the first innings – falling for just 3 runs this time out – but many a great batsman has gone for a paltry total and whether Australia ultimately win or lose this test match is not the big picture.
This is an Australian team in transition and Khawaja may not be the swashbuckling, stereotypical Aussie that fans adored in teams gone by, but he doesn’t need to be and if he can start to produce big scores on a frequent basis he would be a deserving talisman for a new Australia.
The ball-tampering fiasco signalled that there needed to be a change in the culture of Australian Cricket. This is the Australian Cricket Team. They shouldn’t need to be cheating. They shouldn’t need to resort to being abusive, or threatening towards opponents either.
Under the stewardship of coach Justin Langer, there are green shoots of improvement in the team. With Khawaja now coming into his own, the same could be said of Australia’s order.
©Cricket World 2018