“… do you look towards someone who, if they succeed, has got longer?
“The same message has gone to Usman for as long as I can remember. It’s not only about making runs – it’s about fielding, it’s about a whole range of issues.
“He probably just hasn’t quite nailed it. We know he’s a very, very good player, particularly at the domestic level, and he’s shown signs at the international level, but when it’s really counted in recent times, he just hasn’t quite been able to make that step.”
Khawaja wasn’t the only Australian batsman who didn’t fire in England this year and Chappell, a former Australian captain and one of the country’s greatest ever batsmen, has his concerns about the batting line-up heading into the summer.
“‘Uzzy’ [Khawaja] has had plenty of opportunities, there are others that have had opportunities,” he said.
“I think we’ve got to be realistic and accept that apart from [Steve] Smith, [David] Warner, albeit he had an ordinary Ashes series, and Marnus Labuschagne, who’s showing some really good signs, the rest of the guys have proven that they’re really good first-class cricketers but haven’t quite made the step up.”
However, Chappell did sympathise with the players given they are now playing in an era of unprecedented scrutiny, thanks largely to social media. That fact has further been underscored in recent weeks with Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski all requesting time out to deal with mental health issues.
“There’s a lot of pressure on these guys … the spotlight’s right on them, they’re under the glare of that for, in a cricket sense, 10 months of the year these guys are on the road,” Chappell said.
“It is very demanding and they’re away from their support mechanisms, their family, their friends, their coaches, and so on, and if things aren’t going well, they’ve got a lot of time to dwell on it.
“It can’t be healthy and I know Cricket [Australia] does a lot around that to try and help these guys but obviously from time to time, it gets to them and it really is hard.
“I don’t have the answer, and I’m not sure too many people do have the answer, but somehow we’ve got to find a way to help these guys get through and I’m glad that it’s out in the open and players feel comfortable to talk about it and it’s not held against them which is even more important.
“So it’s a really tough one. They are three really talented young cricketers and at the moment all three of them are struggling so it tells us something, I’m not quite sure what it’s telling us, but we need to explore it further.”
Chappell said modern-day players weren’t able to unwind and escape the pressure as much as cricketers did back in his era.
“We could get away from time to time and just go out and have a few quiet beers or a meal somewhere and just forget that you were international cricketers for a while,” he said.
“I’m not sure that happens quite so much [these days] and I’m not sure that they’re quite as comfortable with each other. I’m not suggesting there’s any issues there but I just think it’s a different era.
“They don’t have that luxury [of going out] so they tend to stay in the hotel, they are forced into each other’s company and not every team is totally comfortable with each other.”
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.