Khawaja excited by prospect of era-defining six months for Test team

Australia
Usman Khawaja believes this Australia men’s Test team will be remembered as a great side if they can sweep the three major challenges ahead of them in the next six months.

The squad flies to India next week for the first of a trio of overseas assignments that will shape where the team sits in the history of the game. Australia have not won in India since 2004-05 and that will be followed by a likely World Test Championship final in early June before the Ashes, where they will not only look to retain the urn as they did in 2019 but win the series in England for the first time since 2001.

“100%, definitely,” Khawaja said when asked if the side would be worthy of the great tag should they collect the three trophies on offer. “But win, lose or draw, we’ve played some amazing cricket. We are the world No. 1 team at the moment, have been for last year, we’ve got some terrific players in this team. [We’ve got] one of the best Test cricket batsmen I’ve seen, Steve Smith, and got some amazing bowlers, too.

“Personally, it’s probably the best team I’ve been a part of because even when I came into the side we were sort of in transition. We had some great players, [and] some new players in between, so it’s just really nice to be in a team where everyone trusts each other and looking forward to what will happen over the next six months.”

Jason Gillespie, who was part of the side than won in India in 2004 after having seen the 2001 series slip away, added his voice to what victory in India would mean for the team.

“Let’s be honest, for this group of Australian players, this could be a career-defining tour,” he said. “All us cricket tragics and fans should be pretty excited about this group of players, I know I’m excited as a cricket fan to see what this group of players can achieve in India.”

Usman Khawaja prepares for first Test in India

Khawaja was part of the squads for the 2013 and 2017 tours of India but has yet to play a Test in the country. He was one of four players suspended for a Test on the 2013 trip for what became known as homeworkgate, when they did not return an assignment ordered by coach Mickey Arthur.

This time, Khawaja returns as a more complete player of spin and much more comfortable in a relaxed set-up. He has had an eye on the India tour over the last few months and has tailored some of his preparation during the home summer.

“We’ve always got one eye on future tours, no matter what,” he said. “We do take it one tour at a time but you have to have one eye on the tour, especially if you are going from here to India with very different conditions.

“Even the way I’ve been practicing, I’ve been practicing for these [home] games here but when I feel I’ve ticked that off I go and do stuff I feel I need to for next two months. I know there’s a lot of other guys who are similar, just comes from maturity. A lot of us are pretty old now, we’ve been around for a while now, with that maturity we understand you need to have one eye ahead.”

Some of the 18-player squad will head into a camp in Sydney while others, including Khawaja, will continue with their BBL sides during the first phase of the finals series. The squad heads to India early next week where they will initially be based in Bengaluru before heading to Nagpur for the first Test, which begins on February 9.

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