Usman Khawaja

Exclusive: 'I could never believe when he wasn't picked' - Watson on Khawaja’s Test comeback

The ICC review

By Jonathan Healy

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Former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson has queried why Usman Khawaja was dropped from the Test side in the first place and has nominated the player he believes must receive another chance to show his wares.

Khawaja already has four centuries to his name in 2022 and finished the recent Test series against Pakistan with a total of 496 runs from five innings at an imposing average of 165.33.

That recent upsurge has seen Khawaja climb to a career-best seventh in the latest MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings for batters and Watson has not been surprised with his recent rich vein of form.

But it's made Watson wonder why Khawaja spent more than two years on the Test scrapheap, after he was dropped from the national side in August 2019 and didn't earn a recall until the SCG Ashes Test against England earlier this year.

Video cwc19 01 Apr 22
The ICC Review | Watson hails Khawaja as one of Australia’s ‘highest skilled batters’

Speaking with Isa Guha on the latest episode of The ICC Review, Watson said he has had mixed emotions while watching Khawaja perform so well for Australia over the last few months.

"Usman Khawaja has always been one of our best batters and one of the highest skilled batters in Australia and I could never believe when he wasn’t picked," Watson said.

"It's awesome what he is doing now, but for me it is actually a bit sad that we have missed an opportunity in the previous four or five years to be able to see that version of him playing for Australia.

"He has never lost his skills and has probably got better skills now than he ever had.

"I am absolutely stoked for him and so glad he got an opportunity towards the back end of his career to prove himself...he really deserves it."

With Khawaja and fellow opener David Warner both aged 35 and closer to the end of their careers than the start, opportunities are going to be available in the coming years in Australia's top-order.

Young gun Will Pucovski appears an obvious choice to inherit one of those spots should he overcome his health issues, while left-hander Marcus Harris is likely to get further opportunities to prove himself at the top level.

But Watson has urged selectors to provide Matthew Renshaw with another chance at Test level as he believes he can prosper for Australia in five-day cricket.

Renshaw has made 11 Test appearances for his country - and even scored an impressive century against Pakistan in 2017 - but has suffered a similar fate to Khawaja in that he has been overlooked by selectors for a long period of time.

The last time Renshaw played a Test for Australia was back in March 2018 and Watson is adamant the 26-year-old must be given another taste.

"There is one batter in Australia that we often forget about and that is Matt Renshaw," Watson said.

"We sort have just chewed him up and spat him out pretty quickly in the Aussie system which was very disappointing as this guy is incredibly skillfull.

"It wouldn’t surprise me if at some stage they don’t revert back to him because he is as good as any young batter I have seen in Australia."

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