Test series: Aussie heads spin in Ashwinophobia
Be it Steve Smith or David Warner, the Australians believe that winning a Test series in India is the “toughest challenge” — tougher than the Ashes to be precise — in the longest format.
While that’s the big war the men from Down Under are preparing themselves for, Usman Khawaja is padding up for a battle, the “hardest” one, within that war. The Indian spin attack, particularly Ravichandran Ashwin, is the mountain that the Aussies aim to scale in their upcoming assignment.
Khawaja, an opener in the current team, is yet to play Test cricket in India, though he has previously been part of the squads in 2013 and 2017. Australia haven’t won a Test series in India since 2004-05 and if they are to do it this time, Khawaja, their ‘Test Cricketer of the Year’, will surely have to play a big role.
Speaking to Sydney Morning Herald about the series, the left-handed batter said: “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 (in India). It feels like we are in a better spot than before, but it’s always going to be tough.”
While spin overall is a threat to the visitors, there is no doubt about whom they fear the most. Australia have unearthed a Ravichandran Ashwin duplicate and have been practising against the bowler at their preparatory nets in Bangalore with the intention to read the Indian tweaker’s tricks better in the upcoming series.
That the current Australia team is packed with left-handed batters is a greater cause of worry for the Khawajas.
“Ashwin is a gun. He is very skilful, he has 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.
“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.”
It’s not just Khawaja who is considering the series to be a Herculean task. In a video uploaded by cricket.com.au. on Monday, many of the Australian players spoke on similar lines.
“It’s a difficult place to win a Test match let alone a series. So, if we are able to do that, it would be huge. I think if you win in India it is bigger than an Ashes series,” said former captain Smith.
The four-match Test series begins in Nagpur on Thursday.