Usman Khawaja has bluntly directed Shane Warne to his record in all forms of cricket in response to criticism that he needs to “show how important playing for Australia is to him”.
Having been dropped from the Australia Test team during the Ashes and not chosen in the squad for the Gabba Test, Khawaja will instead lead Queensland against Western Australia in the domestic limited-overs tournament final on Tuesday, and made his irritation at Warne plain when asked about it.
“I don’t think there’s any need to answer that question,” Khawaja said of Warne questioning his desire to play for Australia. “I’m a batsman, I’m a run scorer first and foremost so that’s my currency, but if you look at my Shield record, you look at my one-day domestic record, my record for Australia, my BBL record, I score runs. That’s all that matters. Not really [going to change my body language], I’m a pretty cool bloke. You either get it or you don’t, that’s the way it is.”
Asked whether he had given up on playing for Australia, he said: “No, never. If I had, I would’ve retired. You always have the goal of playing at the highest level. I feel like I belong at international level, but I’ve got to score runs, and if I do that, the rest will take care of itself.”
Warne, who has criticised Khawaja on other occasions in the past, lauded the selectors Trevor Hohns and Justin Langer for dropping him. “Justin Langer and Trevor Hohns have done a good thing with Usman Khawaja,” Warne said in a News Corp column. “By leaving him out they have asked him to show how important Test cricket, and playing for Australia, is to him.
“Throughout his Test career, he always seems to do just enough. Sometimes you just want to shake him and get him to show a bit more. Different personalities make up the team and some people aren’t as exuberant and emotional as others, but he can be better, particularly with his body language.”
However, there will be an insight provided into how Khawaja felt about playing for Australia in a new fly-on-the-wall documentary series, commissioned by Cricket Australia in 2018 and depicting the team’s road back from the Newlands scandal to the dual campaigns for the World Cup and the Ashes. Khawaja is captured in the trailer holding his head in his hands after England’s one-wicket triumph at Headingley, which meant Australia had to win at Old Trafford to retain the Ashes. Khawaja was dropped after Headingley and has not played since.
“Yeah it was very tough, a tough moment. I think it was a tough moment for the whole of Australia, let alone the guys playing,” Khawaja said. “So that stuff’s the down of sport, the stuff you don’t see, I keep my emotions in check when I’m on the field, but it’s probably the stuff off the field that you don’t see. I think I just wanted to win the Ashes there, and it felt like we had and then we lost it. That’s all it was, that’s why it hurt so badly at the time, it was devastating.
“For a long time Australian cricket’s been very closed off, especially at international, not allowing people into the change rooms. I think this documentary is great, to see the other side of it, a lot of the fans wouldn’t have seen it ever, unless you were invited to come in. It’s a pretty special place, very different to what you see on the outside.
“We just got used to it, you could have the camera in the shower and we wouldn’t even notice. A lot of the time the Doc just had the cameras up in the change room and we had no idea they were even there. Once it happens all the time you just get so used to it.”
The selectors chose to drop Khawaja after he suffered a string of poor umpiring decisions in the Sheffield Shield, but in the domestic one-day tournament has delivered scores of 138, 112, 5, 31 and 86 not out to drive Queensland to the final at Allan Border Field. Speaking about how his Test fortunes had seemingly been cruelled by the judgments of umpires, Khawaja took a fatalistic view of events.
“That’s frustrating, but that’s life, I’ve got to move forward, there’s not much I can do about it now,” he said. “I’m quite happy playing for Queensland, doing what I need to do for my state. I actually don’t think too much into a lot of things these days, I’m literally just going out and for me I’m a batsman trying to score runs, or in the field trying to take catches or get run outs, try to keep it really simple.”