Applause has been abundant for the performance of test rookie Usman Khawaja in the Ashes, who just disappeared. One of the few Australian hitters (the first since Justin Langer in 1992) to make his debut at number three, Khawaja looked pretty solid and seemed to have a good temper. However, with a score of just 37, it shows the state of Australian cricket already being heralded as the next big thing. Of course, he should be congratulated for making a pretty decent score, but it’s worth noting that not long ago, a debut score in the 1930s would not have been greeted with such a celebration.
Khawaja’s tickets were certainly assured and his media performances, so important these days, are also impressive. However, the appetite for new talent has caused the Australian media to look at Khawaja in pink glasses. In his innings, Khawaja was at 15 after just ten deliveries, but finished at 37 out of 95. This can be read as a player settling in his innings, and there was certainly an element to this, however the slowness of Khawaja pressed his captain, and Michael Clarke duly fell in love with an overly aggressive shot. Also, some of Khawaja’s runs come from questionable shooting. His four-shot looked good, but he fell dangerously close to the fielder at a time when Australia couldn’t afford to lose any other ground. Then he cut wildly by four again above the point.
Then, on the brink of a storm that eventually brought the game to a close, he slowed for a premeditated sweep against Graeme Swann and was caught from the top edge on the square leg. It was a strange shot against Swann, who was on his first switch, and is well known for getting wickets at the start of a spell. Khawaja left the field to thunderous applause and wisely refused to acknowledge the crowd. He, we hope, realized that his entries, while promising, were not worthy of such applause.
In no way is this article intended to be a lead balloon. Khawaja is an exciting prospect and his inclusion in the team is welcome. But both the media and the public must step back, judge the entries for what they were, and simply let a talented young player thrive without the ridiculous expectations that have already been built up for him. Khawaja was praised for his calm temper against England yesterday, for him to be truly successful he will have to maintain this determination when it comes to an overzealous Australian cricket community.