Australia opener Usman Khawaja can’t remember if he “smiled” like he did after completing a very special Test hundred on Indian soil.
It is an accomplishment he hadn’t dreamt of, having carried the drinks on his previous tours of India in 2013 and 2017. Khawaja, Australia’s best batter on this tour, batted for six hours to grind down a quality attack, scoring an unbeaten 104 out of team’s 255 for four on Thursday.
“I don’t think I have ever smiled so much on getting a century, there was emotion in it. I have done two (Test) tours of India before (2013 and 2017). Carried the drinks for eight Test matches before I got a chance here,” you could feel the pain and joy in his words. The 36-year-old lost a lot of time when Cricket Australia tried out mediocre openers like Marcus North and Chris Rogers.
“Throughout the middle of my career I got told I couldn’t play spin and that’s why I never got an opportunity to play in India.
“It’s just nice to go out there and tick off a hundred in India which was something if you asked me five years ago if you told me that I would think you were crazy,” Khawaja doesn’t let you miss the point as to what it meant for him.
“There was a lot of emotion, I just never expected this to happen,” the Islamabad-born, Queensland-raised cricketer, said. So did he agree with that perception in Australian cricket that he couldn’t play spin”
“Maybe to some extent. But think it was a self-fulfilling prophecy in its own way. People start saying that then perception is reality. Anytime I got out to spin, people were like ‘you can’t play spin’. I probably started believing it myself,” he said.
No support from teams of past
Khawaja lamented how the cricketing ecosystem Down Under never had his back in the early days of his career.
“I didn’t really get the support from the people around me at the time. I didn’t feel like the team really supported me. I didn’t feel like the coaching staff and selectors really supported me through that journey. It just made it so hard,” he was blunt.
“Whether I was or wasn’t, yes I’m a better player of spin now, no doubt about that, I have more shots, better defence. But I didn’t really get the opportunity to learn at that early stage.”
So how did he turn the tables?
“Fortunately enough, I am quite stubborn so went out of my own way to learn, then we had a couple of A tours here in India which helped a lot. Had to go back and figure it out all by myself.”