Usman Khawaja has taken inspiration from NBA star LeBron James to get himself into peak physical condition for the demands of Test cricket.
Khawaja has overcome a knee injury sustained in the UAE to be ready for the opening Test against India in Adelaide but had already embarked on his enhanced fitness regime.
James is 33 and Khawaja turns 32 later this month and has already felt the benefits of his hard work, which has seen him lose around 10kg, firstly during a spell in county cricket with Glamorgan then when forming his match-saving 141 against Pakistan in Dubai.
“It wasn’t a thing where I was like ‘CA’s coming down on me telling me to lose weight and I have to do it or else I’m not playing’. It wasn’t Big Brother or anything,” he told RSN radio.
“That was probably one part of my game and place that I wanted to work hard on and make sure I was in the right physical shape for international cricket. Training, playing, travelling. I don’t think people realise how much actually goes into the international schedule.”
“I just wanted to make sure that I was the best version of myself. One of my favourite athletes, LeBron James, does that as well as anyone else. I had a good Ashes campaign but I just felt like it was something I needed to work on at the time. I just started chipping away at it.
“I was actually really surprised with how well I was pulling up after games. Losing weight doesn’t help you particularly score runs. It doesn’t make you a better batter. It’s about the other little things. Being in the field, recovering, running between the wickets.”
The exact role Khawaja plays in the Test series against India remains to be confirmed with a decision still to be made over Australia’s opening combination. If Marcus Harris debuts alongside Aaron Finch then Khawaja will be moved down to No. 3, but coach Justin Langer has previously praised the performance of Finch and Khawaja in the UAE.
Khawaja admitted he liked the role at first drop as it allows him to gather his thoughts after fielding, but he is more than content with whichever position he takes.
“The only thing it affects is how fast I have to run off the field,” Khawaja said. “You only get 10 minutes as an opener, which is a pain in the a***. I love batting No. 3 because you often get a little rest, little breather, put your pads on nice and easy, watch the openers scurry off. But it doesn’t make a difference whatsoever.”