Sydney, Dec 3: Usman Khawaja has revealed Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James served as his inspiration for his marked fitness improvement.
The Australia batsman has become one of his country's most reliable Test performers in an occasionally shaky top order, his importance underlined by an epic 141 to rescue an unlikely draw against Pakistan in Dubai in October.
Khawaja faces another stern examination over the coming weeks as the world's top-ranked side, India, arrive for a four-Test series starting in Adelaide on Thursday.
But the left-hander, who has lost around 10 kilograms thanks to his concerted fitness push, can continue to call upon three-time NBA champion James if he needs any extra motivation.
"It wasn't a thing where I was like 'CA's [Cricket Australia] coming down on me telling me to lose weight and I have to do it or else I'm not playing'," Khawaja told RSN radio. "It wasn't Big Brother or anything.
"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.
"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.
"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."
It remains to be seen whether Khawaja will continue his opening partnership with Aaron Finch, which proved productive in the UAE. If Marcus Harris makes his debut at the top of the order, Khawaja will move down to number three, but he has no qualms about taking up either role.
"The only thing it affects is how fast I have to run off the field," Khawaja said. "You only get 10 minutes as an opener, which is a pain in the a***.
"I love batting number three because you often get a little rest, [a] little breather, put your pads on nice and easy, watch the openers scurry off. But it doesn't make a difference whatsoever."