The independent voice of cricket

Ashes 2021/22

Can Usman Khawaja avoid the Shaun Marsh fate to reignite his Australia Test career?

by Divy Tripathi 5 minute read

Ian Chappell might have his reservations, but the Australia selectors have backed Usman Khawaja by naming him in their Ashes squad for the first Two Tests. Divy Tripathi looks at what lies ahead for the Queensland player.

Cricket’s a funny game. Usman Khawaja would know the same. Only last year, he was decidedly focused on ‘Thunder stuff’, while others like Shaun Marsh were in the fray for Australia selection. The latter’s case was further strengthened by the backing of the Australia coach who stated that, “You never discriminate against age. He’s doing everything possible”.

A year on, the Marsh comeback never happened. He would eventually finish with 734 runs in the Sheffield Shield last season, and has had a decent run this year, but it seems that at 38 his time has eventually run out. He was last seen wearing the baggy green in the 2018/19 home series against India. His failure to get going in absence of Steve Smith, and David Warner, seemingly put paid to his Australia Test career.


Marsh was 35, when he played his last Test for Australia. Khawaja will be 35 this December. The two southpaws made their Test debuts in the same year, and with some minor differences, their careers have followed the same start-stop trajectory.

Focusing on Khawaja, he got his start in the 2010/11 Ashes but it wasn’t till the 2015/16 season that the left-hander became a regular member of the Australia side. The season also saw his first Test ton, which was soon followed by a flurry of big scores. It seemed that Usman Khawaja finally belonged to the Australian middle-order. A few months later the trapping of Sri Lankan turners got the better of him but he continued his glorious run at home in the 2016/17 season with 314 runs against a strong South Africa line-up, and 267 runs against Pakistan.

But it seemed that the selectors didn’t back him in the sub-continent. And a brilliant 171 apart, Khawaja was unimpressive during the 2017/18 Ashes and the subsequent South Africa tour.

However, he got the opportunity to fully settle himself in the aftermath of the ball-tampering controversy. And it got off to a brilliant start – with a match-saving 141 against Pakistan. Alas, nothing quite clicked for Khawaja after this.

India were able to beat Australia 2-1 to achieve their first ever series win in Australia and Khawaja scored a mere 198 runs at 28.28 in the 2018/19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

He managed a century against Sri Lanka, but an unimpressive start to his Ashes 2019 campaign (122 runs in three games at 20.33) and the return of the big guns, meant that Khawaja’s Australia run was over for the time.

Now, he finds himself back and bang in form. He has been able to force his way through a splendid Sheffield Shield run. He is the leading Shield run-scorer with 404 runs for Queensland. He has notched two hundreds, including a match-saving 174 against South Australia. Batting at No.4, Khawaja has been able to lead Queensland in an impressive campaign so far. Ian Chappell rates the bowling only “mediocre”, but Khawaja can only score runs off what he’s up against, and he’s doing that better than anyone in the country at the moment.

Khawaja faces a battle with Travis Head for the No.5 spot, and if he gets a chance, he will know that he needs to take this opportunity with both hands.

35 can be a precarious age in this Australian setup, and given that they are set for a couple of tough tours to the subcontinent over the next year, Khawaja might find that this is his final opportunity to reignite his Test career.

Sign up to bet365 to be entered into a draw for the chance to win a Wisden t-shirt of your choice, terms and conditions apply, more information here 18+ begambleaware.org

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99