Khawaja ready to return the favour for Punter
Usman Khawaja is grateful to Ricky Ponting. Photo: Mark Kolbe
USMAN KHAWAJA will never forget how Ricky Ponting bent over backwards to make him feel welcome when he first walked into an Australian dressing room.
The stylish left-hander now wants to ensure ''Punter'' enjoys a memorable farewell when he joins him in the Prime Minister's XI to play West Indies at Manuka Oval on Tuesday.
Selected for his first Test match at Sydney in the 2011 Ashes series, a 25-year-old Khawaja was understandably nervous about sharing the same oxygen with greats such as Ponting and Michael Hussey.
Forced to withdraw from the match through injury, it was Ponting who helped his replacement feel like he belonged.
It's why Khawaja wants to help him go out on the high he deserves with a win on Tuesday.
''He helped so much, you talk to other players and it sounds like he's the same with any new guy coming into the squad,'' Khawaja said.
''I remember when I first came in he gave me a lot of time, not only during training but afterward. He'd have coffee with me and take me out to dinner, that's the type of bloke he is.
''For someone who's played over 150 Test matches, you could understand him not doing those little things, but he was really good like that and it'll be great to play with him again. I grew up idolising people like Ricky, it's pretty cool to realise he's actually just another bloke, a guy you can joke around and have fun with.''
Khawaja played all six of his Tests in 2011 and learned plenty about what it takes to achieve longevity by watching Ponting in action.
''The thing that stuck with me was no matter if he was in the nets, doing throw-downs or in a game, he always had exactly the same competitive mindset. Every time he goes out there he's 100 per cent committed.
''Some of the older guys like Huss [Hussey] and Pup [Michael Clarke] were really welcoming. Coming into the side you don't want to step on any toes, it's always tough, and it's nice when the older guys make it easier.''