Usman Khawaja says former coaches and leaders of the Test side ‘didn’t show enough respect’ as he reveals the key to Australia’s stunning run of success
Australian opening batsman Usman Khawaja has explained how the decision to give more power to players has transformed the national Test side in the years following the infamous homeworking scandal.
The Queensland captain enters the Australian Test summer against Pakistan and the West Indies refreshed, with no injuries or problems and with The Ashes and the Test Championship safely in Australia's hands.
It's a far cry from the dark days of 2013, when former coach Mickey Arthur ruled the Australian team with an iron fist.
Mid-range veteran Mike Hussey shocked the nation that year with his retirement in January and things went from bad to worse from there.
Australia's tour to India in March ended in disaster, winning 4-0 with key players Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja sent home for failing to deliver a presentation assigned by Arthur.
Australian opening batsman Usman Khawaja has opened up about the big changes in the Test side
Khawaja was one of four players sent home from a tour of India by then coach Mickey Arthur (pictured together)
Australia then traveled to England where they were thrashed and Khawaja was dropped
David Warner was fined $11,500 and suspended for attacking journalists on social media. Arthur is fired. Australia suffer a three-nil Ashes defeat in England.
Khawaja will be a key member of the Australian squad, which has since turned around in a big way.
He reflected on those difficult years in 2013 and accused Arthur and other leadership figures of disrespecting the players and how much the stress of Test cricket was affecting them.
“They didn't respect how difficult Test cricket is mentally,” he said Sydney Morning Herald.
Khawaja praised the current leaders including coach Andrew McDonald, head of selectors George Bailey and captain Pat Cummins for better understanding the needs of the players.
“I think Patty and especially Andrew and George understand how difficult it is to be able to perform mentally at an international level,” he said.
'I don't think the boys would have been able to perform the way they have at international level this year if it hadn't been for those people at the top.
“I'm sure they've worked hard to take the burden off, take the pressure off, take the stress away and keep the players playing at their best for as long as possible. The little things that don't matter don't matter – we're not there to tick a box.'
The Test side has turned around dramatically and won the Test Championship this year
The culture change also extends to the ODI squad, which won the ICC World Cup
Khawaja is feeling mentally and physically refreshed ahead of the Australian cricket summer
Khawaja revealed that players used to be beaten for trying to rest during Test matches and were forced to do drills and warm-ups that were not necessary by the tough leadership group of the time.
“Five years ago, when I was sleeping during a cricket match, I would be absolutely shouted at,” Khawaja said.
'A Test match lasts five days, it's hard work, but 'what do you do, sleeping during a match, waking up'. Now, with Patty or anyone else, if anyone sleeps during the game, no one says a word.
“Even the littlest things, like warming up, so you're ready to play the game. That requires just that little bit of mental strength. You don't have to wake up every day dreading a warm-up you don't want to do.
“If I scored the day before and I'm not batting, why do I need to warm up? I don't have to warm up until we start racing again.'
Khawaja said the onus now falls back on the players who had reaped huge rewards.
“I think there is respect, responsibility and trust that everyone will do what they need to do,” he said.
“Players are being treated like adults for the first time in a long time, and they're acting like adults most of the time.”
Coach Andrew McDonald has been praised for changing the culture and putting more responsibility back in the hands of the players
McDonald and Cummins have worked together to create a new winning culture in Australian cricket across all formats
New chief selector George Bailey has also been part of the revival of Australian cricket
Part of the new era of leadership will allow players to rest where they need to, giving Khawaja the chance to freshen up for the upcoming Test series without being forced to play Sheffield Shield or warm up matches.
“No one wonders when a fast bowler takes time off, right?” Khawaja said.
'So I don't know why anyone questioned me taking a few games off. You never play six Shield matches before a Test series, there is always a chance you will get burnt out before mentally starting a Test series.
“The toll of hitting isn't physical, it's more the mental toll, you're always on. I've hit a lot this year, I've been switched on a lot, so I know I have to respect that on some level.
I was quite tired mentally after that Ashes series, and going into (the Sheffield Shield) I played that first game and the plan was always set.
'Thanks to Andrew and George, they have been great throughout the process. We sat down and thought about the best way to prepare and approach it, and that's how it was.”