Ricky Ponting believes that Usman Khawaja, who is eyeing a return to Australia's squad for the Ashes series, while still trying to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, will produce his best if he takes up an aggressive approach.
Ponting, one of the greatest batsman in Test cricket, made the crucial No.3 position his own, aggregating 9904 in 196 innings, third on the overall list, behind Kumar Sangakkara and Rahul Dravid. One of the interesting aspects of his batting was his aggressive mindset even in trying conditions, best symbolised by his trademark pull shots and free-flowing drives off the front-foot.
The former Australia captain said that Khawaja would do well to stick to his natural game. “I think when he's scoring quite freely, he's a much better player, and that's going to be the challenge for him again here," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"The English quicks will have some pretty good plans for him and he's just got to take it on a little bit more and impose himself on the contest a little bit more. If he does that, I'm sure he’ll play well.”
Ponting referred to Khawaja's performance in Australia's home Test series against India last summer, when the left-hander scored only 198 runs in eight innings, saying that a counter-attacking approach could've possibly worked better. “He probably wasn’t at his best in that India series back at home,” Ponting said.
“Talking to him about it, he probably went back into his shell a little bit. He knew how they were going to bowl, and he probably just didn't put enough pressure back on the bowlers. He sort of sat and tried to wait on them and they were just too good most of the time."
I’ve not got enough good things to say about Usman as a player. I don't think anyone ever questions his technique when he's playing well.
Khawaja bettered his performance in the next series, against Sri Lanka, as he scored a fluent 101* at a strike rate of 74.26. Ponting praised the 32-year old's technique but pointed out that it gets a bit exposed if he takes the defensive route.
“I’ve not got enough good things to say about Usman as a player,” Ponting said. “I think he's a very classy player. I don't think anyone ever questions his technique when he's playing well. It’s just when he gets that little bit defensive that his technique starts to be shown up a fraction. But when he's moving his feet and he's out hitting the ball, I think his technique is really good."
England has been a tough batting place for Australia on their last few tours, as they have struggled to put up match-winning totals on a consistent basis. Khawaja, too, has had his struggles in the past as he managed to score only 114 runs from six innings on his previous tour, in 2013. Ponting, though, was confident that the New South Wales cricketer would excel as a batsman this time around.
“I know he's got most of his runs in Australia, [but] that breakthrough couple of Tests he had against Pakistan in the UAE [last October], that showed a lot of class. If there was ever a question over him, it was a question [about] playing against spin bowling. So he's changed and rectified that.
“Now he’s got to find a way to score runs in tough conditions here in England, but I'm pretty confident he can do it.”
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