Usman Khawaja, the Australia opener, considers facing the Indian spin attack led by Ravichandran Ashwin to be the toughest challenge in the upcoming four-match series starting on February 9th in Nagpur. Khawaja will open the batting with David Warner and has limited experience playing in India, but will finally get his chance in the longest format after being part of the Test squad in 2013 and 2017. He feels that the team is in a better place than before, but that it is always going to be tough.
“There’s definitely a different feel. There are no guarantees in this game, but at least there’s a bit more maturity particularly in the batting, and more maturity in the bowling. We’ve learnt a lot over the last 10 years, particularly the types of wickets we can get and how we think we can perform and go out and win Test matches out here. It feels like we are in a better spot than before, but it’s always going to be tough,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Australia has chosen to prepare for the high-profile contest by simulating spin-friendly conditions near Bengaluru and has taken Ashwin as the biggest threat from the opposition. Australia is working hard to tackle the Ashwin threat, as he is seen as a skilled bowler with many tricky variations.
“Ashwin is a gun. He is very skilful, he is got a lot of tricky little variations, he uses the crease quite well too. If you asked me the same question when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have been able to answer a lot of things because I didn’t really learn about how to face what off-spinners are doing,” said Khawaja.
Khawaja considers facing Ashwin to be a good challenge, as he knows that the wicket is going to turn at some point and he needs to figure out how to play and score runs against him. The visitors expect turning pitches in all four games, which will make the trio of Ashwin, Axar Patel, and Ravindra Jadeja more dangerous with the new ball.
“But it’s one of those really good challenges. The wicket’s going to turn here at some point, whether day one, day three or day four, and he is going to be in the game and bowl a lot of overs. So it’s all about figuring out how I’m going to play against him, how I’m going to score runs against him, what he might do. If you bat a long time against him, he’s going to change his game plans against you. He’s not the kind of guy who’ll do the same thing over and over, he’s going to try to work you out.”
Khawaja believes that the new ball is the hardest time to bat in India, especially when spinners are bowling with a new ball on deteriorating wickets.
“If it’s a good wicket, the new ball is probably the easiest time to bat. But as soon as the wicket deteriorates in India and you’ve got spinners bowling with a new ball, that’s probably the hardest time to bat anywhere. When we train, the new ball on spinning wickets is always the hardest time. People assume opening the batting is the best time to bat in the subcontinent, it is when it’s flat, but it’s not when it’s spinning when there’s so much variation with that new ball. Once it softens up it gets easier to predict what it’s going to do,” added Khawaja.
Khawaja had difficulties reaching India and had to travel through Melbourne, Delhi, and Sydney, which resulted in many delays and left him feeling groggy from the flight.