From a player considered unsuited for playing spin to becoming an indispensable opener, Usman Khawaja has come a long way in his innings. In the deciding Border-Gavaskar Test, the Australia opener showed his worth, anchoring his team’s batting with his patience and temperament. With his century, Khawaja achieved his 14th Test hundred, and the sixth since his comeback to the Test side in January 2022. His milestone in the series had an added emotional significance, as he had been told he couldn’t play spin, and thus, couldn’t play in India on two previous tours.
Khawaja’s innings was the longest of the series, facing 422 deliveries and scoring 180 runs, helping his team score a total of 480 for 10.
Khawaja used the same style of play he employed in Pakistan, where he amassed 496 runs at 165.33. The lack of big spin and the slowness of the surface enabled Khawaja to wait for the loose delivery rather than feel the need to manufacture something. He played just two sweeps, a shot he employs when he considers conditions are in the bowlers’ favour, and he needs to reassert some pressure or take a risk to score.
The surface appeared to be the best batting strip of the series, and Australia could have forged a formidable first-innings total. But, they didn’t quite make the most of their opportunity. One of the phrases that has been used within the team a lot during this tour has been that of batters being ‘happy’ or ‘content’ with the way they have got out, which was a reference to how challenging conditions have been, and that they won’t always be able to protect all modes of dismissal. However, none of Australia’s batters to fall on the opening day would feel that way.
Khawaja’s obduracy and Green’s positivity set the stage for the closing minutes of the day, which provided a fascinating battle between Shami and Green. The session after tea was the most threatening, as Shami cranked things up. But, Khawaja’s innings showed the importance of patience, temperament, and grinding, especially in challenging conditions.
Khawaja’s journey has been remarkable. At one point in his career, he was told that he couldn’t play spin, but he has since made an indispensable comeback. Khawaja’s journey from being unselectable to being a vital player shows that nothing is impossible with hard work, dedication, and perseverance.