Usman Khawaja’s credentials with the bat have never raised any kind of doubt, but question marks were raised on several occasions regarding fielding during his five-year-career in international cricket.
So it was again the same old case during Australia’s defeat at the hands of West Indies on Monday in St Kitts, where he despite scoring a stunning 98, missed two early chances in the field to hand lifelines to both of the West Indies openers.
It was in the second over of Caribbean innings, Khawaja was standing at mid-on where he dropped a relatively easy catch of Andre Fletcher, and once again in the eighth over Khawaja posted at long-on missed a sitter to reprieve Johnson Charles.
Australia will be looking for a more compact performance in the field when they face West Indies and South Africa in Barbados seeking a place in the tri-series final.
“I don’t think we fielded particularly well and obviously, I put my hand up in that department,” Khawaja admits. “Sometimes you just have horrendous games and you just can’t do anything about it, the ball follows you around.
“Obviously, it’s a big part of cricket. A big part of what we do well. If we’re fielding well, we usually win games so it’s quite important. I’m not the first person to drop a catch. It happens. You try and move on as quickly as possible.”
Australia’s first training session at Kensington Oval in Barbados was completely focused on fielding, with no bowling or batting, as caretaker coach Justin Langer is keen to rectify their mistakes. The Australians will be up against South Africa on Sunday and West Indies on Tuesday. This series has already proven to be quite even with the three teams, as each team has won two and lost two matches.
Australia will be without prolific opener David Warner, who broke his finger earlier in the series, and it gave Khawaja an opportunity to move up the order to open the batting with Aaron Finch. Khawaja seemed comfortable in his new role on Monday and despite missing on a maiden ODI century, he is currently averaging 46.66 in the format this year.
“When I was younger I was always pigeonholed as a four-day player. It frustrated me a lot,” Khawaja also said. “Even when I performed back in first-grade cricket at the time when I was really young, I still wouldn’t get a chance at New South Wales.
“I finally got a chance – I put some numbers on the board and I did well and we won a few games. Australia just had a set one-day team and no matter how many runs I scored in the Matador Cup, it was too hard to crack it,” Khwaja concluded.