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Had Usman Khawaja played most of his cricket in Pakistan, his ability to play spin would never have been questioned.

Had Usman Khawaja’s parents decided against relocating to Australia 25 years ago, he could well have been representing Pakistan national team. That, perhaps, would have deprived him of playing Test cricket against India in India, for a Pakistan Test team has not visited the Indian shores since December 2007 and Khawaja made his First-Class debut a couple of months later in February 2008. But, when Australia take on India in the first Test of the four-match series starting February 23 in Pune, Khawaja will not only play but shall be a vital cog in the Australian batting line-up. He will take the most critical batting position the No. 3 spot. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Australia 1st Test at Pune

Though this is going to be Khawaja’s second trip to the country with Australian Test team, he will, in all likelihood, play his first Test on the Indian soil. This will bring his ability to play spin under scanner. It is a known fact that to succeed in India, a player has to handle the spin-factor well. Khawaja’s case shall be no different. He has scored heavily in his own backyard and averages close to 48 in Tests. However, the India tour is not going to be an easy one. How he fares here shall go a long way in determining how great a player he can become for his country.

Had Khawaja been raised in Pakistan and played most of his cricket in the country of his birth, his ability to play spin would never have been questioned. For, the Pakistanis are known to be better players of spin. But Khawaja is as Australian as any of his teammate in this regard. Just like his other colleagues, he has struggled to get going on the subcontinent tracks against the spinners.

Though the sample size is small just 4 Tests in Sri Lanka Khawaja has not reached the 30-run mark in the seven innings he has played. Moreover, out of his six dismissals, four have been caused by spinners. In his latest outing in Asia last year, Khawaja could score just 55 runs in the four innings on the disastrous tour of Sri Lanka and was dropped from the third Test, a decision he thought was harsh on him.

“I wasn’t the only person who wasn’t scoring runs. There was only one other person who scored a 50 in the first two Test matches at that time and that was Steve Smith,” Khawaja had said after his axing for the final Test, before adding, “I only had two bad Test matches on tough wickets [in Sri Lanka]. I found it pretty fickle that the selectors dropped me for the third one. It was disappointing how that panned out. But I guess there’s some things you don’t have control over.”

But since then, Khawaja has done well to cement his place in the side. In the six Tests at home this summer, Khawaja has scored 581 runs at 58.10. In all those six games, he has gone past fifty-run mark at least once. Australian cricket was at the crossroads after two heavy defeats to South Africa and went towards the phase of transition with as many as three debutant batsman in the third Test. Khawaja, now a senior batsman, lived up to the responsibility. He not just survived, but blossomed.

This, however, was not Khawaja’s best home season. He has in past scored runs aplenty on Australian tracks. In the last season, he scored 504 runs in just three Tests against New Zealand and West Indies. Another good series in New Zealand followed before the Sri Lankan tour happened, which was nothing short of disaster.

Talk about disaster, Khawaja’s first trip to India with the Australian team too was nothing short of being catastrophic. He helplessly saw his side lose the first two Tests from the bench, before being suspended for the third Test along with three other teammates for not doing the ‘homework’ by the then coach Mickey Arthur. It was a low-point in his career, but Khawaja dealt with it with maturity and bounced back.

Recently, when he came against Arthur now Pakistan coach during the series against Pakistan at home, he showed how he had came a long way since that ‘homework gate’. “It was tough at the time but I was playing the next Test series anyway, so it didn’t really mean too much. I’m not the kind of guy who holds onto grudges. If I get into a fight or get angry with someone I’m over it like that. Usually, anyway. I’m sure if I see Mickey there would be no issues. Everything would be good,” he had said before the start of the series.

Khawaja played a crucial role in Australia’s 3-0 win over the country of his birth, a side coached by his former coach, by scoring runs at over 66. And now, on his second visit to India to play Tests, with an enhanced reputation and the tag of being a senior player, Khawaja will have a huge responsibility on his shoulder to get big runs on the board for his side. The task will not be easy, for he will be up against the best bowler in Tests — Ravichandran Ashwin as well as his able ally Ravindra Jadeja. Both are spinners and in other words, Khawaja’s Achilles’ Heel. A good showing here will not just separate him from his teammates, but put him in a different league altogether.

Importantly, it will do Australia a world of good in their quest to win the first Test on Indian soil in 13 years.