Usman Khawaja's top innings helped Australia draw the first Test in Dubai. Picture: AP
Usman Khawaja's top innings helped Australia draw the first Test in Dubai. Picture: AP

Khawaja’s innings defines Test quality

WILL the lessons of Usman Khawaja's batting masterclass vanish in the desert haze or will they inspire the next generation of Australian batsmen to go the long journey?

First Test of the summer, this epic 302-ball innings could not be better timed.

Test batting coach Graeme Hick said over the weekend there had been a general concern over the lack of dam-busting first class numbers produced by emerging batsmen across Australia.

He's right. As much as a few of us would have liked to see Glenn Maxwell and Matt Renshaw in the Test team the bottom line is, with first-class averages just over 40, they are unlucky to a point.

But to call them heartbreak kids would be going too far. Hick wants batsmen to learn how to bat, and bat … and bat.

You can talk all you like about it but nothing stands out like someone actually doing it before your admiring and disbelieving eyes.

It's not easy for a young batsmen these days to be marathon batters because they are generally taught how to cook up crickets version of french fries rather than your long-baked roast meal.

"A young bloke now has to make a decision,'' former Test captain Ian Chappell said on Macquarie Radio last week.

"He's got to decide do I want to build a technique that's going to get me into Test cricket and perhaps allow me to play in the other two forms of the game as well or do I want to produce a technique that will allow me to score 10 runs an over, probably get a BBL (Big Bash League) contract with a view to also getting an IPL contract.

"That's where a young batsman is these days."

 

It was an innings to inspire a generation. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
It was an innings to inspire a generation. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

 

Khawaja can bat long and short partially because is the last generation of batsmen raised before Twenty20 cricket took over the world.

Kids are now coached upside down to how they were in more studied, bygone eras where a straight front elbow was as much a part of a batman's technique as a foaming head is to a cold beer.

Now short-form cricket is the first thing they learn and their games game expand, or should we say contract, from there.

It used to be the other way around.

Front feet which used to dutifully be placed near the pitch of the ball are now often cleared out of the way to enhance hitting power.

I love what Big Bash cricket has done for the game's grassroots but if you asked me what my favourite Big Bash innings was of last season, or any season, you've got me cold.

It's like asking what was your favourite Mars Bar. They all seem to taste the same.

The great thing about the Khawaja innings is that the young players in the team will learn that truly great Test match innings - and make no mistake this was one - follow a player for life.

Khawaja will always have Dubai in the same way that Dean Jones will always have Madras, that Michael Slater Lord's and Steve Waugh Sydney.

 

Khawaja’s knock could be a defining one. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Khawaja’s knock could be a defining one. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

 

When former England captain Mike Atherton wrote about his career defining 11-hour 185 against South Africa in 1995 he quoted an old saying.

The rough summation of it was that every player needs an innings that rises above the scrutiny of any personal ratings system and is simply, unquestionably outstanding. It said that while people may debate your worth as a player it is important to define yourself by an innings which is beyond debate.

Khawaja's unquestionably was one these.

Hopefully the lesson of this fabulous performance will inspire many others to do the same.

 

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