Flexibility key to Australia’s success in India: Usman Khawaja
Usman Khawaja's ODI form has pushed him back into the T20I squad. © Getty

Back in India after previous visits as part of Australia‘s Test and limited-overs squads, but having only played four T20Is in the country, Usman Khawaja is bracing for another role: that of opening batsman in the shortest format.

Australia’s seven-game tour of India starts with the first T20I on Sunday, and while his place at No 3 in Australia’s ODI squad is guaranteed, Khawaja is not a fixture in T20Is. His last game in the format came in 2016. (READ: Usman Khawaja ends frustrating period with emphatic hundred)

The last time Australia played T20I was at home in November when they drew with India 1-1. D’Arcy Short partnered Aaron Finch as opener in both games – the second was abandoned – and scored 7 and 33. Coming off a record-setting Big Bash League season in which he scored 637 runs at 53.08 to be named Player of the Tournament, Short would be assumed to reprise his role alongside Finch, his troubles against spin in last year’s IPL could go against him.

Khawaja’s past experience in India, during the 2016 ICC World T20 and in the IPL, is something the team management may consider instead. He played all four of Australia’s matches in that World T20, from which he scored 143 runs at a strike-rate of 137.50. (All you need to know: India vs Australia series)

“I played in that T20 (World Cup) and the wickets were really nice,” said Khawaja on Wednesday in Hyderabad. “I found there was probably one wicket that spun a fair bit in Dharamsala, the other ones (in Mohali (twice) and Bangalore) were pretty good batting surfaces. You just have to adapt to whatever you get here. As the Australian cricket team, a lot of guys have had some really good performances in India in the past, so I think we can draw from that.”

India have won six of their eight ODIs this year, while Australia have lost two and won one. In T20Is, India are 1-2 in 2019. Australia have not played this year.

“There’s a lot of good players in this team, which is awesome,” Khawaja said. “It’s good to have options. A lot of guys that are in this team are quite flexible on where they can play so whatever happens moving forward I think everyone will do quite well in whatever role they have.”

Khawaja revealed a little of what Australia’s coach Justin Langer told the team before and after practice on Wednesday.

“JL’s message is very simple and clear most times: just try to get better every single time,” he said. “Whether it’s training or playing games, we’re always trying to improve. I think everyone’s going about their individual plans trying to get better and that’s the main focus. If you do that consistently hopefully you start getting results further down the track.”