Usman Khawaja’s availability for the opening Ashes Test will be confirmed on Monday (July 29) when he is set to complete his “last level of running” to ascertain the fitness of his injured hamstring.
The left-handed batsman had suffered the strain during Australia’s final league game in the World Cup against South Africa and subsequently, been ruled out of the semi-final. But he sounded in high spirits and rather confident of passing his final fitness test and getting ready to take his place in the middle-order for the Test that starts at Edgbaston on Thursday (August 1).
“Hammy’s good, very good. Doing all the rehab. I think it’s going really well at the moment. I’ve done most of the stuff. I’ll do some more running tomorrow. Tomorrow will probably be the last big one I do, probably the last level of running that I have to do. Highest level. If I do that then I think I’ll be available for selection,” said Khawaja.
A heavy drizzle in Birmingham severely restricted Australia’s practice session on Sunday morning, and most of them had to be content with the nets in the indoor practice area. Khawaja, though, like he has been over the last three weeks, did get a run in and feels like he’s nearly at “full speed” now.
“I’ve sort of been ticking them off as I’ve been going. There’s running components I have to do, then strength hamstring stuff in the gym I’ve had to do and I’ve been doing them over the last 3 weeks, just ticking them off. I’m just about running at full speed now, did a session yesterday that was just about at full speed. So not too far off,” he said.
Khawaja also revealed that his hamstring hadn’t prevented him from batting in the nets and that he hadn’t missed out on training for the most crucial aspect of his game.
“A hamstring doesn’t really stop you from batting, it stops you from sprinting. So it’s only sprinting stuff that has really stopped me. Everything else, I haven’t really actually changed too much. I’ve been hitting a lot of balls, so that point of view hasn’t been that different,” he said.
Khawaja did miss out on the warm-up match between Australia and Australia A at Southampton and quipped about not being too disappointed at having avoided batting on what was a very tricky pitch. He did however have a decently lengthy hit out in the centre after the four-day game early midway through on Day 3.
“I was fortunate I got to bat in the middle at the end anyway, after the game was finished. I really enjoyed that. I didn’t enjoy it because the wicket had divots in it, it was tough work, it wasn’t a very nice wicket. But being out in the middle, seeing fielders around and not being in the nets all the time. I enjoyed it, batted for 30 minutes and really enjoyed it,” he said.
If Khawaja is back to full fitness in time, which looks likely at the moment, he will be reunited with Steve Smith in the middle order and with David Warner back at the top. After having spent the Australian summer with the responsibility of being the most experienced batsman in the side, you’d assume he’ll welcome Australia’s premier batsmen back in the mix. But he insisted that it wouldn’t change his role in the team in any way.
“I was just batting, playing cricket (during the Aussie summer). Nothing really hanged too much for me. It’s just nice to have them back, because they’re great blokes and world-class cricketers. They add that extra dimension to our team. They’re two of the best batsmen in the world. So it’s just good to have them back in the side. Because it gives us all extra confidence,” he said.
Khawaja also spoke about how tough it’d been for him to watch Australia go down to England in the World Cup semifinal in Birmingham, especially considering he had thought that his team were going on to win the tournament.
“I was riding every ball. It’s hard to watch when you’re invested in the game. When you’re in the game you feel like you can do something but from the other side of the fence – felt like my mum and dad would, like my wife. So there was a lot of disappointment. To be sitting out too. But I didn’t start thinking about the Ashes until long after that semi-final was finished,” he said.
Khawaja then also explained his rationale behind not having a fixed routine in terms of his training and how there was no “magic formula” to be successful as a batsman when it comes to knowing the exact amount of time you need to spend in the nets or in practice.