the first two tamely at Chennai and Hyderabad. To his surprise, he was informed by the Arthur he was “suspended” from playing the next Test for not submitting the homework given to him. The team management, instead, chose to go with Steve Smith for the Mohali Test. Khawaja was not the only one. Allrounder Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson were other players involved in what was infamously called as ‘homework gate’.
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Khawaja, who’s had a stop-start career, and not wholly due to cricketing reasons, was back in India for the 2017 tour. But he wasn’t picked for any of the four Tests, ostensibly because he couldn’t play spin and all he did was carry drinks onto the field.
On this third Test tour, the 36-year-old Pakistan-born left-hander, has easily been the best batter from the visiting team. And on Thursday, he got the monkey off his back with a fighting hundred on Day 1 of the fourth Test against a quality spin attack.
Khawaja was asked if he did feel vulnerable against spin bowling early on in his career. He said, “Maybe to some extent. But think it was a self-fulfilling prophecy in its own way. People start saying that then perception is reality. People were like ‘you can’t play spin’. I probably started believing it myself.
“I didn’t really get the support from the people around me at the time. Didn’t feel like the team really supported me, didn’t feel like the coaching staff and selectors really supported me through that journey. It just made it so hard. Whether I was or wasn’t, yes, I’m a better player of spin now, no doubt about that.
“I have more shots, better defence. But I didn’t really get the opportunity to learn at that early stage. Fortunately, enough I’m quite stubborn so went out of my own way to learn. We had a couple of A tours here in India which helped a lot. Had to go back and figure it out all by myself.”
On scoring his 14th Test hundred – and the first against India in Tests, Khawaja said, “I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much on getting a century, there was emotion in it, I’ve done two tours of India before, carried the drinks for eight Test matches before I got a chance here,” a beaming Khawaja said after the day’s play.
“Throughout the middle of my career, I got told I couldn’t play spin and that’s why I never got an opportunity to play in India. I got an opportunity to play in a white ball series a few years ago and was man of the series (he had scored two hundreds), got an opportunity here again with the red ball.
“It’s just nice to go out there and tick off a hundred in India which was something if you told me I’d do, five years ago, I’d think you were crazy. There was a lot of emotion, I just never expected this to happen.