Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting firmly believes that Usman Khawaja is the best batsman in the national team, and needs to be given more opportunities to shine in Test cricket.
Ponting’s high praise for Khawaja comes after Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned for their respective roles in the ball tampering scandal that shocked the cricketing world.
It is understood that Warner played a leading role in the scandal, which occurred on the third day of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town in March, as he told Bancroft to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper.
As a result, Warner and Steve Smith were banned for 12 months by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft was suspended for nine months. Smith won’t be allowed to captain Australia for two years, while Warner won’t be considered for leadership roles in the future.
With the Baggy Greens’ batting line-up having taken a massive hit, Ponting reiterated that the selectors have to invest some faith in Khawaja and let him prove his worth over a period of time.
Ponting added that he hopes this process will begin during Australia’s Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next month.
“There’s been lots of different discussions over the last couple of years about Khawaja and how to get the get the best out of him,” Ponting told cricket.com.au as quoted by the International Cricket Council’s website. “(People wonder), ‘is he an Australian Test match player only? Do we just not pick him on the subcontinent?'”
Khawaja has failed to impress in the five Tests he has played in the subcontinent, four of which came against Sri Lanka and the other against Bangladesh. In nine innings, the 31-year-old has scored 117 runs at a disappointing average of 14.62.
But, Ponting once again pointed out that Australia are missing three key batsmen in Smith, Warner and Bancroft, and called on the selectors to have patience and give Khawaja time to blossom and show how talented he really is.
“I just think you’ve got to keep picking him – with Warner and those guys out, he’s clearly our best batsman by a street,” Ponting said. “The more he can play in those conditions, the more he’ll start to work it out.
“Someone like Uzzie, he’s been in and out, he’s played the start of a series over there and got dropped but then been picked as soon as he’s got back to Australia.”
Ponting’s support for Khawaja stems from his own personal experience 25 years ago.
“It’s difficult,” he recalled. “I was a bit the same; the first few tours I had to India, I struggled. But the more I played, the more I learned about how I was going to survive and how I was going to cope. The last couple of tours I had there were some of the best I ever had.”
Meanwhile, Ponting also questioned Australia A’s decision to rest Khawaja for the second four-day game against India A after he scored 127 and 40 in the first game
Khawaja did not feature in the second game as Australia A wanted to give all the players an opportunity to play.
“I just think he’s had a lot of uncertainty about where he’s at,” Ponting said. “I was even a bit surprised that they didn’t play him in this last game in India (during the Australia A series). He was over there in India, he’d done well and then they don’t play him.
“He’s a class player, no doubt about that. The more secure he can probably feel in his own mind, we’ll see him get better and better.”