A month and a half after returning from the tour of Sri Lanka, Usman Khawaja has spoken out about being dropped for the final match of the three-Test series there, which Australia lost 3-0, saying that Joe Burns and he had been made “scapegoats” for the team’s dismal show.
Burns, opening the batting with David Warner in the first two Tests, scored a grand total of 34 runs in four innings, while Khawaja, from No. 3, managed 55 runs in four outings. Both of them were dropped for the third Test in favour of Shaun Marsh, who scored 130 and 23, and Moises Henriques, who scored four and four with the bat and bowled just two wicketless overs.
“It’s a pretty big decision after just two Test matches,” Khawaja was quoted as saying by Fairfax on Sunday (October 23). “It was disappointing that Joe Burns and I were sort of the scapegoats for not performing. I just thought that I’d only played two Test matches in the subcontinent and I got dropped. I wasn’t the only person who wasn’t scoring runs.
“There was only one other person who scored a 50 in the first two Test matches at that time and that was Steve Smith.”
Khawaja struck three successive Test centuries against New Zealand and West Indies at home last summer, before following it up with another century against New Zealand in Wellington to cap a remarkable 2015-16 season. Burns was also impressive, notching centuries against New Zealand in Brisbane, West Indies in Melbourne and then in Christchurch against New Zealand.
“I only had two bad Test matches on tough wickets. I found it pretty fickle that the selectors dropped me for the third one,” said Khawaja. “It was disappointing how that panned out. But I guess there’s some things you don’t have control over.”
With Marsh out injured after that Test, Khawaja got a chance in the limited-overs series that followed, but failed in the two One-Day Internationals he played, scoring zero and six, before getting 36 and six in the two Twenty20 Internationals.
Following Australia’s Test series whitewash, Darren Lehmann had conceded that Burns and Khawaja were “unlucky” to miss the third match.
A member of the Australian selection panel in his capacity as national team coach, Lehmann hinted at a possible return for Khawaja, but not Burns, to the playing XI for the first Test against South Africa, starting on November 3 in Perth.
“I think you can look at him as a one, two or three (batting position),” said Lehmann last week. “It depends on the make-up of the side. At the end of the day, the captain will decide where the batting order lies and we’ll just give him the side we think is the best prepared and the best team to win that particular game.
“Usman is one of those guys can bat one, two, three or four, five or six … that’s an advantage with him so really depends on how the other players shape up with the Shield round.”
Khawaja made 35 captaining Queensland in Sunday’s One-Day Cup final against New South Wales and has another chance to push his case for a Test recall when the opening round of the Sheffield Shield gets underway on Tuesday.