Test batsman Usman Khawaja has taken a cue from NBA superstar LeBron James to prepare his body for the gruelling demands of international cricket.
As Australia coach Justin Langer weighs up where to bat him for the first Test against India starting Thursday, Khawaja is fit as a fiddle after dropping 10 kilograms in the past eight months.
The Queensland captain started shedding the weight after Australia’s scandal- ridden tour of South Africa and is now reaping the rewards.
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It was initially feared Khawaja could be in doubt for this week’s four-Test series opener when he suffered a knee injury in the UAE.
But the 31-year-old recovered ahead of schedule, allowing him to return via the Sheffield Shield last week.
James has been known to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain his imposing physique, spending more $2 million a year taking care of his body.
Khawaja suggested the three-time NBA champion, who is 33 but continues to defy Father Time, has been an inspiration.
“I just wanted to make sure that I was the best version of myself,” he told RSN.
“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.”
Langer is known for putting a high value on fitness but Khawaja, who insisted he felt no pressure from Cricket Australia, started his training regime before the former Test opener was appointed coach.
“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 said.
“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.”
Turning 32 later this month, Khawaja was initially cynical the change would produce results until his recent stint playing for Welsh county side Glamorgan.
“I was actually really surprised with how well I was pulling up after games,” he said.
“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 left-hander, arguably Australia’s most important player in the absence of suspended duo Steve Smith and David Warner, demonstrated his fitness in the UAE with a marathon nine-hour knock of 141 that helped Australia salvage a draw.