Veteran Australian batsman Usman Khawaja was recently snubbed by Cricket Australia from their list of centrally contracted players. In spite of being snubbed, the cricketer has requested the board over improving the condition of domestic pitches on the backdrop of Steve O’Keefe’s recent retirement from international cricket. Usman Khawaja is of the opinion that the spin department of the Australian team will be left vulnerable after current off-spinner Nathan Lyon bids adieu to the game.
While speaking to Fox Sports, Usman Khawaja backed domestic pitches in Australia to be more spin-friendly. He said that he feels for spin bowlers in the country and Cricket Australia needs to be more careful in looking out for more spinners for the future. Usman Khawaja described Nathan Lyon as an “absolute genius” but also raised his concerns as to who will replace him once the off-spinner quits. The Queensland captain cited the example of Shane Warne and how his retirement in 2007 left Australia vulnerable in the spin department for atleast 6-7 years.
Usman Khawaja further spoke about his Queensland teammate Mitchell Swepson in high regard. According to Khawaja, Swepson is currently the second best spinner in Australia after Nathan Lyon. However, as a captain, Usman Khawaja stated that he is always reluctant to hand Swepson the ball whenever they play on green decks.
Shane Warne retired in 2007 after bagging a staggering 1,001 (708 in Tests and 293 in ODIs) international wickets across formats. He is currently the second highest wicket-taker in the world after Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan. Meanwhile, Nathan Lyon is the primary mainstay of the Australian spin attack since his debut in 2011. In 96 Tests, Lyon has picked up 390 wickets and is Australia’s most successful off-spinner of all time.
Spin bowling arsenal has always been considered as a major component for touring parties to win a series in India. A Test series win in India has been cited by Steve Waugh as the ‘Final Frontier’ for Australia during the early 2000s. The Australian team, under the leadership of Adam Gilchrist, finally claimed a series win in India by a 2-1 margin. Shane Warne was the primary spinner for the touring party where he was ably supported by Michael Clarke with his part-timers and Nathan Hauritz.
Even Australian run-machine Steve Smith recently expressed his desire to win in India in an interview. As a captain, Smith did come close to winning in India during their tour in early 2017. Australia won the first Test of the 2016 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series on a spinning track in Pune on the back of Steve O’Keefe’s 12-wicket match haul. Even Nathan Lyon performed well in the series with 19 wickets. However, the hosts came back strongly in the remaining matches to claim the trophy by a 2-1 margin.