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Wiser Usman Khawaja hopes to learn from past Ashes failures

Australia opener Usman Khawaja is looking forward to the challenge an Ashes tour provides.

Australia opener Usman Khawaja is looking forward to the challenge an Ashes tour provides. Photo: AAP

Usman Khawaja says he has learned plenty from his two underwhelming tours of England as he prepares for what he calls the toughest test for a top-order batsman.

The 36-year-old opener will be integral to Australia’s chances of retaining the Ashes when the first of five Tests begin in Birmingham on June 16, following the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval.

Khawaja toured England in 2013 and 2019 for a meagre return of 236 in six Tests at an average of 19.66.

He was dropped in 2019 and spent almost three years on the outer before a triumphant return to the Test side that has reaped 1608 runs in 16 Tests at an average of 69.91, including six centuries.

“England is, in my opinion, the toughest place in the world to bat for top-three batsmen,” Khawaja said.

A decade ago, he struggled.

“In 2013 I was quite young and it was a pretty s–t tour if I am being honest. It was tough work. I learned a lot from that tour,” Khawaja said.

“My last series there (in 2019) it was a tough series for batsmen. The whole tour will show you that, other than Steve Smith who was on another planet.”

Khawaja said it was a “learning experience” with a couple of key takeaways.

“If I’ve learned anything it is work hard, train hard and (when) going to England, go with low expectations,” he grinned.

“You are going to fail as a batsman, but when you do score you try to cash in as much as you can.”

It is the challenge that awaits against England maestros James Anderson and Stuart Broad that has Khawaja enthused..

“Anderson and Broad … they are unbelievable bowlers and tough work at the start,” he said.

“That’s what makes it so awesome when you do score runs and you contribute to a winning team, which hopefully I’ll do and others will do over there.

“When you do it against guys like Broad and Anderson in England, it’s just that much more satisfying.”

Khawaja opined that Australia had been too “reactive” in dropping players in the past, including himself, after the odd failure.

“I’ve always been big on just picking your best players and sticking with them because they’ll score you the most runs consistently, and I think over the years in selection for Australian cricket we have chased our tail a little bit trying to pick players in form,” he said.

“Form is temporary. Class is not. I think the new selectors, with (coach) Andrew McDonald up the top understand that part of the game and hence there has been a lot more stability in selecting and picking players, and sticking with them.”

“I’ve been dropped seven times in Test cricket and I’ve come back, and there’s a reason for that … because I’ve always scored runs consistently in first-class cricket and fought my way back.”

-AAP
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