Usman Khawaja has taken a dig at the Australian selectors who left him in the Test jungle for more than two years after achieving a “special” career achievement in India.
Khawaja continued his strong form, scoring an unbeaten century to ensure that Australia put on top after winning the toss and electing to bat on the first day of the Fourth Test.
The left-handed batsman scored an unbeaten 104 and shared an unbeaten 85-run partnership with Cameron Green (49 not out) as Australia reached 4-255 at stumps.
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Khawaja’s century was the 14th of his Test career, but his first in India and against India.
While the left-handed batsman had toured India before in both 2013 and 2017, he was left on the sidelines in both the series, and showed he hasn’t forgotten about it.
“There was a lot of emotion in it. I had been to India on two previous tours and brought drinks to all eight Test matches,” he said.
“It was a long journey trying to get to 100 in India. As an Australian, you do what you want to do, so it’s very special.”
Khawaja took another swipe at his press conference at the end of the first day, saying he “didn’t feel like the team really supported me” after he had been repeatedly dropped in his career, especially in Asia. it was done.
He said, “Whenever I went out to spin, people would say, ‘You can’t play spin’. I’m probably starting to believe it myself.”
“I didn’t really get support from people around me at that time. Didn’t feel like the team really supported me, didn’t feel like the coaching staff and selectors really supported me through that journey.
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“It made it so tough. Whether I was or not – yes, I am a better player of spin now, no doubt about it, I have more shots, better defense – but I didn’t really get a chance at that early stage. Learn.”
It seems unimaginable now that Australia would field a Test XI anywhere in the world without Khawaja in the top order, but that’s what happened for more than two years during the left-hander’s dominant years.
Khawaja was dropped during the 2019 Ashes series in England and was not returned to the Test squad until the New Year’s Test against England in January 2022.
He marked his return to the Test team with two centuries and recorded four more in the 15 Tests that followed, his average currently at 69.53, as he was reinstated in Australia’s Test team.
Khawaja has been known for his flamboyant strokeplay throughout his career, but showed a grittier side to his game on the first day, with his century coming off 246 balls.
“It was such a good wicket (and) I just didn’t want to give away my wicket,” he said.
“At times I wanted to hit him over the top, which is what I usually do in the sub-continent, but I thought today you have to try and get me out.
“It was a mental battle more than anything because you have to try and overcome your ego. I wasn’t hitting very fast, so it was just a battle all day.
“Just keep the process going, keep it up as long as you can and keep helping the team because I knew the longer I bat, the better it is for us.”
It was a bizarre opening of a Test match as the players became a virtual sideshow with Australia and India’s prime ministers given a cavalcade around the ground before the first delivery.
Khawaja revealed that he was one of the few to benefit from the pre-game celebrations.
“I think some of the other boys might be a little nervous,” he said.
“I don’t have any superstitions (and) I don’t really have a lot of structure for my warm-ups, I just go with the flow guy, so that was fine for me.
“I just went out in the back, did some run-throughs, stretched and then made sure I was ready for the game when it started. I enjoyed that warm-up, it’s probably the best warm-up I’ve ever had.” ” ,
“They (Australia’s coaches) all came up to me and said to me this morning, ‘This is going to be the favorite warm-up of your life’, and I thought, ‘I think you might be right’.”
After seeing Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb all come and go, Khawaja found an ally in Green, who put the Indian bowlers to the sword in the final hour of play.
The 23-year-old arrived precariously at the crease with Australia at 4-170 after Handscomb was bowled by Mohammed Shami, but was brilliantly back in Australia’s favor after the home side opted to take the second new ball.
Indian skipper Rohit Sharma was hoping to find a breakthrough with the new ball but instead saw it vanish from all sides as Australia piled on 54 runs in the last nine overs of the day.
“We didn’t say anything to Greenie, he was just looking at them like beach balls and just smacked whatever they were putting out there,” Khawaja said of the final session counter-attack.
“It wasn’t our intention. I was just looking at the other end and taking a single to let him go on strike, but it was pretty cool to see.”
The second day’s play will resume at 3 PM on Friday, with Australia looking to pile on a big first innings score.
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