“This, though, isn’t quite true. He has played 18 matches in Australia and 13 abroad which makes his statements rather confusing. The inability to focus on the moment and correct his flaws has affected Khawaja’s growth and will be a telling factor if Australia do decide to move on from him”.
Let this stat sink in.
Since the beginning of 2017, Australia’s top three has contributed 5302 Test runs of which 1943 has come off the bat of David Warner alone. That is a whopping 36% of all runs from the top order. The other big contributor has been Usman Khawaja, who has made 1204 runs in the aforementioned period at an average greater than 40.
Yet, all it took South Africa was 46 balls to knock off Usman Khawaja thrice in three innings. Dig a little into Khawaja’s career and you notice that he averages a stupendous 59.38 in Australia but when it comes to games outside the country, it drops to a pathetic 24.59. For batsmen with at least 20 innings home and away, the difference in average is the worst for Usman Khawaja.
Agreed that Vernon Philander was too hot to handle in that spell and the deliveries that nipped out Khawaja and the other man in question – Cameron Bancroft – were absolute jaffas. Yet, the pattern is too huge to ignore for Australian cricket.
A sensational Ashes series and a marauding David Warner has masked Australia’s woes in the top three for quite a long time. Yet, when they found the right answer to the questions, they didn’t stick to their selections.
The problem with Cameron Bancroft is much more obvious than that to Usman Khawaja. Bancroft is a hard-worker without a shade of doubt but hasn’t quite converted his starts to substantial scores.
For one, in his 11 innings’ in the Baggy Green, Bancroft has two half-centuries and 275 runs at 27.50. He has neither shown the temperament to stick through the rough times nor shown the aggression to bat himself out of trouble.
The case with Khawaja, though, is different. Much like he appeared pretty upset at the decision after nicking behind off Vernon Philander, the southpaw has been rather expressive of the supposed unfair treatment meted out to him by the selectors.
He seems to miss the bigger picture, though. For all of his heroics on the flat baked roads at home, Khawaja remains a concern on any surface seams, spins or swings which makes him a flat track bully by definition.
“I’ve played a lot more in Australia. I think you’ll find a lot of players that average a lot more in Australia than they do overseas. I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to play overseas and consistently be able to play”, Khawaja had said in an interview.
This, though, isn’t quite true. He has played 18 matches in Australia and 13 abroad which makes his statements rather confusing. The inability to focus on the moment and correct his flaws has affected Khawaja’s growth and will be a telling factor if Australia do decide to move on from him.
The Aussies seem to have found the balance in the lower middle-order with the Marsh brothers returning but it involved a lot of bold chopping and changing and it might be time to implement the same at the top of the batting line-up.
Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb, both of whom fared pretty well in their time with the squad were given the axe rather quickly but it just might be time to reconsider their choices. Renshaw, for all the accusations against him, is a wonderful batsman technically and has a resolve and temperament that can test the biggest of threats that Vernon Philander poses.
Handscomb, on the other hand, has a glaring weakness against searing pace as he tends to hang back on to his back-foot but then he was dumped pretty quickly although he fared quite well statistically in his time in the squad. He is also a wonderful player of spin, something which cannot be said of either of the Marsh brothers.
Glenn Maxwell is another who is waiting in line after a terrific Sheffield Shield season and his counter-attacking style may not be a bad option to have down the order either. But the inclusion of Maxwell, or more likely Handscomb, will also involve a promotion for Shaun Marsh to no.3. Whether the southpaw has turned around enough to fit into no.3 late in his career remains to be seen.
However, with Khawaja and Bancroft faltering terribly, it might be time for the Aussie selectors to take some tough decisions. Bringing in Matt Renshaw for Bancroft is really a like-for-like choice but if they really want Bancroft in the setup (he could be given a longer rope), he could play in place of Khawaja at no.3 for his game seems to more suit that position than that of an opener’s. Besides the presence of two sturdy batsmen around David Warner further steadies the batting line-up. That said, the duo might anyway get the whole South African series to force the selectors to rethink. At the moment, though, neither seem to have found the right chord in the Test side.