LeBron inspires Uzzie’s miracle recovery
Usman Khawaja's dedication to shedding 10kg in body weight has ultimately saved him from missing the first Test against India.
Australia would have been thrown into total chaos had their batting lynchpin not been able to get up for the crucial summer opener in Adelaide, but had he not reinvigorated his physique, the task of bouncing back in under five weeks from knee surgery could well have proved mission impossible.
There were initial fears inside the Australian camp that the batting rock wouldn't have enough time to recover after breaking down midway through the second Test in the UAE, but those doubts have been emphatically put to bed by the fit and firing Khawaja who says he has been inspired to transform his body by NBA legend, LeBron James.
Respected Cricket Australia physiotherapist Kevin Sims helped guide Khawaja through his rehabilitation process after he twisted his knee and tore his meniscus in an innocuous throwing drill with teammates before play against Pakistan in late October.
Everything had to go right in Khawaja's recovery for him to lead Australia's batting line-up into battle against India, but it was the hard work done in the gym and on the training track in the months before that has made the big difference.
Khawaja has revealed he's dropped 10kg since South Africa back in March, and Sims admits the weight loss program has had a significant impact on his successful recovery.
"Absolutely. I think being in very good shape before the operation certainly helped him a lot when it came to the recovery afterwards," said Sims.
"You couldn't really afford to have any setbacks along the way if we were hoping to get them back to play a Test match.
"The Test match was six weeks post-surgery, but he didn't feel comfortable about going into a Test match with a lack of match play, he wanted to play a Shield game so the goal was to try and play a match at five weeks after surgery with the Shield round we've just had.
"The surgeon did a great job and Uzzie felt very good right from the start. Uzzie himself was highly motivated."
One of the biggest fears at the time Khawaja limped off the ground in Abu Dhabi was the fact he had ruptured the ACL in the same left knee a couple of years before.
However, in an enormous boost for Khawaja and Australian cricket, the Queensland surgeon who operated did a full check of the anterior ligament and reported that no damage has been caused.
"The surgeon had a good look at that and he was happy with how everything was looking with respect to that," said Sims.
"If you've had an operation on a knee there's always going to be a little bit more of a chance that you're going to have some problems with it. It's not perfect any more but the surgeon was very happy with how that side of things looked for him."
Khawaja dedicated himself to eight hours a day of rehabilitation work during his recovery, plus he was responsible for icing the area extensively of an evening.
The weight loss has already paid dividends.
Khawaja scored one of the great marathon hundreds in Test history in excruciating heat in the UAE in October and has now beat the odds to recover from knee surgery.
"I just wanted to make sure that I was the best version of myself. 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," he told RSN Radio.
"I was actually really surprised with how well I was pulling up after games. 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."
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