Australian batter and one of the casualties of the infamous ‘homeworkgate’ saga during the 2013 series in India, Usman Khawaja, has castigated the team management on that tour, saying “their priorities were a bit wrong”, and the side was more worried about ticking boxes than actually doing well in the series.
Following two heavy defeats to India at Chennai and Hyderabad, Khawaja was looking forward to his debut in the third Test at Mohali when he was summoned for a meeting with then-captain Michael Clarke, coach Mickey Arthur and team manager Gavin Dovey.
The Pakistan-born cricketer, then 26, along with three others -- James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson -- was suspended for one match for not submitting a ‘homework’ assigned by the coach.
The players were assigned to give in writing answers to queries on ways to improve the team’s performance, and the four did not submit their replies in time.
Recalling the episode on the eve of the first Test at Nagpur, Khawaja said, “Our priorities at the time were a bit wrong. We were more worried about the box-ticking stuff for players, rather than actually ‘hey, are we a skilful team’.” The cricketer, who has since cemented his place in the Test side, said it had left a bitter taste in his mouth and he never wanted to be a part of the Australian dressing room.
With Khawaja set to play his first Test in India after coming so close in 2013, he says at that point in time, coach Arthur was trying to prioritise everything other than being better rivals on the field.
“All the coaching and support staff with Mickey (Arthur) at the top were trying to concentrate on all the other things, but that wasn’t the reason we were losing,” Khawaja told ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on Wednesday.
He added that at that time, India were more skilful than Australia, which is why the visitors lost all four Tests in the series.
“At that point, we weren’t a more skilful team than India, and that’s why we lost. We didn’t lose because we weren’t fitter than them, we didn’t lose because we weren’t a better fielding side than them, we were just not as skilful as they (India) were.” Khawaja said following the incident, the feeling he got inside the dressing room was that he was an “outsider”.
“It was already tough enough for a new guy to fit in the team. And when something like this happens, it just made you feel like you were more of an outsider.” Khawaja said that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be in the same environment when he returned to the side. But he has steeled himself ever since and emerged a far more stronger cricketer.
“When I came back, I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be in that environment again, because the environment wasn’t fun. But whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so you’re always better off for it at some level,” he added.
The prolific middle-order batter then promised himself he will not let his happiness be dictated by the game.
“I made a pact with myself that I refused to let my happiness in my life just be dictated by cricket. That early stage, 10 years ago almost now, I said back then I’m not going to let them dictate my happiness, there’s more to life than cricket.
“I’m going to train, do everything I can to become a better player, but in the end the results of the game aren’t going to dictate whether I’m happy or not. I think that’s where it started.”