Khawaja to prove doubters wrong: Starc

A triumphant return to Test cricket in Asia is on the cards for the stylish left-hander

Having spent three months in India pummeling net bowler after net bowler, Usman Khawaja is set to prove wrong those doubters who suggest he struggles with spin bowling.

That’s the prediction of Test teammate Mitchell Starc, the recovering pace spearhead who watched Khawaja stroke, sweep and slog a throng of Indian net spinners during the first weeks of his marathon stint on the subcontinent earlier this year.

The elegant left-hander is poised to return to the Test XI this weekend for the first time since early January and Starc says the top-order batsman is ready for the challenge.

"I think the whole team have copped a bit of stick about how we’ve played spin in the past and maybe ‘Uzzie’ more than most has copped a bit of it," Starc told The Unplayable Podcast ahead of the first Test against Bangladesh, which starts on Sunday.

"From what I saw in that Indian series he worked a hell of a lot at it and I’m sure he did in the IPL with a few of the Indian spinners in that team working him around as well.

"It’s slightly different over in Bangladesh than it is in India, but I’m sure he’s going to be well equipped in this series.

"I know he’s worked really hard over the last 12 months, (he’s) really itching to get a game out there and no doubt he’ll be very well prepared for Bangladesh and look to put some big runs on the board."

Khawaja honing his skills against spin // Getty
Khawaja honing his skills against spin // Getty

During his time in India this year, the 30-year-old remarkably didn’t play a single elite match; not one of the Tests against the hosts nor a Twenty20 for runners-up Rising Pune Supergiant in the Indian Premier League.

That's one tour match, four Tests and 16 T20s. 

Despite dominating bowling attacks at home for the past two summers, Khawaja’s form abroad has seen him play only two of Australia’s past seven overseas Tests, all of which have been in Asia.

Those two Tests came in Sri Lanka last year where he scored 26, 18, 11 and 0 – and was dismissed by off-spinner Dilruwan Perera three times – before he was dropped for the final Test of the series that Australia lost 0-3.

Quick Single: Australia's one-pad preparation

Veteran left-hander Shaun Marsh replaced Khawaja for that third Test in Colombo and kept the Queensland captain out of the XI in the Border-Gavaskar series due to his perceived greater competence against spin bowling.

While Australia lost the enthralling series 1-2, Steve Smith’s charges, in particular the top six, impressively countered the spin assault of ace pair Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

But now Marsh is out and Khawaja is in, and Starc is confident the Test squad can carry on their good form against spin bowling across India’s eastern border into Bangladesh.

"We can take a lot of positives out of that (India) tour," Starc said.

"Obviously being in a such a good position in all four Test matches and losing the series is something we can learn from and be a little bit disappointed about.

"But the fact we were in commanding positions in all those Tests is also a positive.

"We can take a lot of confidence out of the way we played those spinners at times but we weren’t able to win some of the key moments with the bat and with the ball to win that series.

"It’s something we’re looking to learn from in Asian series going forward."

Australia in Bangladesh 2017

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Bangladesh squad: Mushfiqur Rahim (c), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Mominul Haque.

27-31 August First Test, Dhaka

4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong