Ashes-winning captain Ricky Ponting has backed Usman Khawaja to eliminate a technical flaw in his game that saw him fall cheaply to spin once again in Brisbane on Friday.
Ponting also warned Australia’s No.3 that he will likely be confronted by England tweaker Moeen Ali early in his innings for the remainder of this Magellan Ashes series, unless he can overcome his susceptibility against off-spin.
Khawaja was trapped leg before wicket by a Moeen straight delivery on day two of the first Test, his 12th dismissal to off-spin out of 39 in his Test career, which equates to almost one in three dismissals.
Ponting said there is a clear weakness in Khawaja’s approach to playing off-spin bowling, but backed the 30-year-old to adapt his game.
“There’s no doubt there’s a technical flaw there somewhere,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“I think he makes two pronounced movements; he makes an initial movement forward and across, which is similar to what I used to do. And then he makes another movement into the ball, which gets his head outside the line of the ball, hence he misses the straighter delivery.
“There’s something there that can be coached and talked about and worked upon, because he’s got out quite a few times now (to off-spinners).
“I love Usman as a player, I always have and always will. There’s just that technical deficiency there that needs to be sorted.”
With left-handers Khawaja and David Warner at the crease early in Australia’s innings, England skipper Joe Root brought Moeen into the attack after just eight overs and Khawaja was dismissed from just the third ball of spin he faced.
Ponting is expecting Moeen to come into the attack when Khawaja comes to the crease in the second innings as well, and for the rest of this series if the left-hander continues to struggle against him.
“It worked straight away for (England) today,” he said.
“The one thing about international cricket now is if you’ve got a weakness or a deficiency, teams are going go for it and go for it quickly.”
Khawaja would be boosted by the knowledge that Ponting, Test cricket’s second-most prolific run-scorer, was himself susceptible against off-spin early in his career. Ponting was dismissed five times in five innings by spinner Harbhajan Singh on Australia’s 2001 tour of India, when the right-hander averaged just 3.40 for the series.
Having struggled on that tour, Ponting conceded he needed to adopt a different approach and finished his career with five Test centuries on turning wickets in Asia.
“I started batting on an off-stump line, especially if the ball was turning,” he said of how he improved after that 2001 series. “I had to try something different because what I tried that time didn’t work.
“As much as anything for me, it was the fact that I didn’t trust my defence enough in the subcontinent.
“If I’m being critical, it doesn’t seem to me like (Khawaja) has actually changed anything with his stance, where his feet are and the way he tries to play. It’s looked exactly the same over and over. The great players of spin did things a little bit differently (when they had problems).
“But with a bit of talking and a bit of coaching and maybe a different mindset from Usman, I think it can be changed pretty quickly. I think he’s got the talent to do it.”
Former Test spinner Shane Warne told Wide World of Sports the fact Khawaja played just one of Australia’s six Tests in Asia this year due to his poor record against spin hadn’t allowed the left-hander to iron out the deficiencies in his technique.
But while the Gabba surface has uncharacteristically taken turn in this match, Ponting said Khawaja’s form in Asia shouldn’t have affected his dismissal in Brisbane.
“We’re not in Asia now, we’re playing on his home ground, so he should understand the conditions here really well,” he said.
2017-18 International Fixtures:
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets
Gillette ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF
Prime Minister’s XI
PM’s XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets
Gillette T20 INTL Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21