Sydney: After making his Test debut last year, New South Wales middle order batsman Usman Khawaja could have taken the popular road to India and accepted a gilt-edged IPL contract, but did not, as he felt that his cricket education was incomplete and needed to fine tuned further with a stint in English county cricket.
He knows he would have been a popular signing, as he has a strong following on the subcontinent because of his Pakistani origins.
He understands that it would have brought all manner of offers and endorsements.
Instead, Khawaja thought about what he needed to do next and came to the conclusion that he was inexperienced.
He went to English county Derbyshire to fill in some gaps.
``When I played for Australia I qualified to go over and I thought it would be silly of me not to take the opportunity because I could play against different players on different surfaces with different balls, a whole new style of cricket,`` said Khawaja.
``I knew I was inexperienced and I didn`t want to go to England, whether it was with the Aussie side or what-not, without having played there already … The IPL and all that jazz will still be around, but at the moment, I needed to do this,`` he adds.
The outrage surrounding Simon Katich``s dumping this week obscured Khawaja`s quiet elevation to Cricket Australia`s elite contract list.
Ricky Ponting`s declaration that he expects to remain at three for the August Test series in Sri Lanka suggests Khawaja will, like Ponting in his younger days, serve an apprenticeship down the order.
Regardless, the 24-year-old spent the week in Brisbane with the Australia A squad, refining his plans against spin before next month`s A tour of Zimbabwe.
Khawaja likes to solve problems; a skill some older figures in Australian cricket believe is uncommon among the country`s younger batsmen. It suggests, too, that Khawaja will demand the same excellence of himself as he builds a cricket career as he did when he was studying for a bachelor of aviation and learning to fly commercial planes.
While Khawaja has scored the bulk of his 2460 first-class runs at first drop, he is prepared to do his time down the order if necessary and does not expect to leapfrog Phillip Hughes into the opening spot vacated by Katich despite having some experience in that position, too.
Born in Islamabad, Khawaja hasn`t visited the subcontinent since a junior cricket tour six years ago. But he knows there are people in that cricket-mad part of the world who identify with him because of where he comes from.
It might bring unique pressures, but that, too, will be part of his education.