SYDNEY (Reuters) - Playing against India behind closed doors in the much-anticipated test series at the end of the year might end up being an advantage for the home side, according to Australia batsman Usman Khawaja.
Cricket Australia are desperate for the tour, scheduled for December and January, to go ahead as the lucrative Indian TV rights for the series would go a long way to easing a financial crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
India have said their players would be prepared to spend two weeks in quarantine in Australia if that helped but social-distancing restrictions might still keep fans locked out of the grounds.
Khawaja, though, thinks that might not necessarily be a disadvantage for the home side given how much noise Australia’s significant South Asian community make when India tour Down Under.
“It’s definitely an advantage” he told Fox Sports News with a laugh on Saturday. “I remember the last time they came over for a one-day series, the roar for India was much bigger.
“Especially in Melbourne, the amount of expats they have over there, they flock in. And when India’s on top they really let you know it.
“It’s a really weird feeling. When you’re in India, you expect to be outnumbered massively but you can be outnumbered in Melbourne, as well as Sydney to some extent also.”
Led by Virat Kohli, India secured their first ever test series triumph on Australian soil the last time they toured in the 2018-19 season.
The home side were, however, missing their two best batsmen as they served bans for their part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, and Khawaja said he thought their return would make for a different series this year.
“They were clearly the better team last time, we hung in there but (Cheteshwar) Pujara was outstanding and Kohli led from the front as a captain,” he added.
“Their bowling unit was as good as I’ve ever seen an Indian bowling unit, they really went toe-to-toe with our bowlers.
“Our bowlers are still in great form, though, and this time Steve Smith and Davy Warner will be in the side too, so a little bit of difference in the batting line-up.”
Islamabad-born Khawaja played all four tests against India in 2018-19 but will need to force his way back into the test side this year after missing out on a national contract a couple of weeks ago.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Edwina Gibbs