Uzzie’s big smile pays div­i­dends for Langer


US­MAN Khawaja ar­rived in Dubai with his ca­reer at the cross­roads.

But all coach Justin Langer was wor­ried about was his megawatt smile.

At first sight the left-handed open­ers of past and present are per­son­al­i­ties of stark con­trast, but there is a magic about Langer that might have just un­locked the sleep­ing gi­ant of Aus­tralian cricket.

In the first tour since Steve Smith and David Warner were banned for 12 months, Khawaja’s nine-hour epic hun­dred against Pak­istan is be­ing hailed as one of the great­est in- nings ever Aus­tralian.

The emo­tion poured out of Khawaja af­ter his 141 off 302 ball hero­ics as he opened up about the pres­sure of be­ing la­belled lazy and in­ca­pable in over­seas con­di­tions.

It was clear the un­re­lent­ing scru­tiny on his work ethic and previous fail­ings against spin bowl­ing had taken their toll.

Khawaja has been forced to look over his shoul­der for so long, that all Langer did was give him one to lean on.

“Peo­ple have talked about whether he can play spin bowl­ing. I had never had a sin­gle doubt that Us­man Khawaja could play spin bowl­ing,” said played by an Langer. “Hon­estly, the last three months (he’s been say­ing), ‘what do I need to do for the UAE, JL?’

“Just keep smil­ing, mate. “I’ve got so much ad­mi­ra­tion for Uzzie. Look at him. He’s got him­self re­ally, re­ally fit (lost 7kg).

“He’s done all the hard work. He’s a beau­ti­fully tal­ented player and he’s got an amaz­ing tem­per­a­ment so with that smile and that tem­per­a­ment he brings great lead­er­ship to the group.

“What he’s done is a great credit to him, to also over­come the de­mons.”

The Langer touch with Khawaja has been im­me­di­ate.

Se­lec­tors have never trusted the Pak­istan-born star against spin bowl­ing, but af­ter Aus­tralia’s crip­pling 10-60 col­lapse on day three, Langer had Khawaja teach­ing to his left-handed team­mates out in the mid­dle.

Langer hosted what he called ‘the left­ies con­ven­tion’ but what he was do­ing was em­pow­er­ing Khawaja.

“It’s al­ways hard for a new coach to come in,” said Khawaja. “I think JL is an ex­tremely good com­mu­ni­ca­tor.

“When­ever you talk to him about cricket you know it’s com­ing from a good place. You can chat to him about the game and you can ex­press your opin­ions and he won’t take it to heart, and he does the same. It’s ob­vi­ously only one Test match that’s hap­pened so far but I think he in­stils a lot of be­lief in the guys as a team, as a whole.

“He’s been there and done it too ob­vi­ously so you get a lot of re­as­sur­ance from that.”

Cricket Aus­tralia’s unique process for find­ing a new pool of cap­taincy can­di­dates over­looked Khawaja, but the 31year-old has em­bod­ied Langer’s man­date of chal­leng­ing play­ers to be lead­ers with­out a ti­tle.

“He’s em­braced it so well,” said Langer. “He’s a se­nior player. He’s played the most Tests be­sides Nathan Lyon.”

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