Khawaja ‘exercising’ subcontinental demons
USMAN Khawaja will face his subcontinental demons in the best shape of his career after shedding seven kilograms in the off-season.
The batsman's dedicated weight-loss mission sends a clear message about his intentions under new coach and renowned fitness fanatic Justin Langer.
Khawaja decided to make training his new primary focus long before Langer was appointed, but his timing couldn't be better.
The 31-year-old has faced scrutiny over his fielding and has also been labelled lazy at times by critics quick to jump on his back when he's not making runs, but for no one's benefit but his own, Khawaja took the initiative to change.
On Monday Khawaja flew to India with the Australian A side determined to dispel doubts over his abilities on spinning wickets as he looks to cement his Test position for October's series against Pakistan in the UAE.
However, even before facing a ball on a dusty deck, Khawaja has got on the front foot to show Langer he means business with no Steve Smith or David Warner in the line-up.
"I wasn't really doing it for anyone else but myself and Alfie (Langer) sort of said the same thing to me when I had a chat to him," said Khawaja.
"I've been doing a lot of work and I'm enjoying it. I've been feeling a lot better.
"Obviously I'm a lot lighter now than I was. I was 83 (kg) in South Africa (earlier in the year when I started) and now I'm down to 76 at the moment.
"I feel a lot better now when I play and when I finish playing with my recovery. I've just jumped in and focused on it.
"You're trying to be the best version of yourself and that's what Justin wants."
Khawaja's commitment to his new health kick sustained through a County stint in the UK, where he had to resist the daily pies and apple crumbles at Glamorgan in between peeling off hundreds.
He knows it won't make a difference to the skill of mastering the spinning ball, but Khawaja feels his running between wickets and athleticism in the field has improved.
Khawaja's place in the new-look Australian cricket team is a fascinating case study.
On one hand his poor record in Asia puts him in a vulnerable position if he can't score runs for Australia A, with performances in India over the next month to be crucial in Langer's selections for the two Tests against Pakistan.
However, on the other, Khawaja's overall Test record (averaging 42) suggests he is an experienced head Australia can't do without over the next 12 months and perhaps should even be considered as vice-captain.
The left-hand run-maker and successful Queensland skipper says he isn't heading to India with the mindset that he's playing for his Test career.
"The way I'll be playing and preparing is that I'm going to Dubai," said Khawaja.
"But at the same time that's not really in my mind. I just want to make sure I'm going out there and performing and adapting to the different situations that get thrown up during games.
"Obviously myself and Shaun (Marsh) are the two most experienced players in the team now and we have that added responsibility in some respects.
"In all honesty, not having Steve Smith and Dave Warner is a big loss because they had so many runs between them.
"I'd love to be vice-captain for Australia but at the same time it's not something I'm actively going after. First and foremost leading with the bat is the most important thing, something which both Steve and Dave did really well."
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