SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 06: Usman Khawaja of Australia celebrates his century during day two of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 06, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Ashes are fading in the rear-view mirror, but a tougher challenge awaits Australia.

Over the next nine months, Australia will play an already confirmed three Tests as they return to Pakistan for the first time in more than a decade, as well as a two-Test series away in Sri Lanka, and the crown jewel when it comes to difficulty, four Tests against the currently leaderless India.

Australia have always struggled on the sub-continent - of that there is absolutely no doubt.

Their last three-Test series against Pakistan (in the United Arab Emirates) during 2018, of India dyuring 2017 and Sri Lanka in 2016 saw the men from down under win just one Test out of nine, while they managed to hang on for two more draws.

The win came in a 2-1 series loss to India, while they drew another Test in that series, and had a famous draw against Pakistan, holding on for 140 overs in their fourth innings, with Usman Khawaja himself playing a monstrous role from his position atop the batting order.

The history of course goes back further than that, and since 1979, Australia have won just 15 Tests out of 71 on the sub-continent. Of the rest, they have managed 25 draws, losing the remaining 31.

If you were to exclude Sri Lanka from those figures and focus purely on India and Pakistan, then Australia have won only nine Tests out of 55, losing 27.

That all said, the challenge Australia are about to embark on is tougher than what they have just been through during the Ashes series - there can be no doubt about that.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India in the same year all away from home is about as tough as it gets for a non-sub-continent team.

It goes without saying then that Australia have to get everything spot on if they are going to be competitive over what will be a challenging nine-Test window.

And part of getting everything right - a large part - will be the selections.

Usman Khawaja has struggled enormously over the years in the sub-continent, but for that last tour of the United Arab Emirates, taking on Pakistan, he completely remodelled his game and excelled against spin.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 04: Usman Khawaja of Australia and Marcus Harris of Australia leave the field at the end of play during day two of the Fourth Test match in the series between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 04, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The runs simply flowed durting that magical Test in Dubai, where he made scored of 85 and 141, batting for a total of 766 minutes in the same Test - over 12 hours.

Both of those were from the top of the order, and there is no question that is where he needs to be when the tour to Pakistan commences in March.

It’s a tour which will hold special meaning to Khawaja, given he was born in Islamabad, but he is the best option at the top whichever way you spin it.

Marcus Harris may still have his day in the sun within the Test team, but he is the next best option. Will Pucovski is most certainly not ready for Test cricket at the current time, while other young openers Henry Hunt and Tim Ward are also not ready to take the next step.

Before Hobart, Khawaja averaged more than 90 as an opener in Test cricket, and if he is going to play in Pakistan and the sub-continent more generally, it needs to be at the top of the order.

He needs to have the chance to get his eye in before the spin begins, and not only that, but to find that free flowing confidence he had in the UAE, where he was happy to sweep and bat aggressively when it was required, but also backed his defence to get through long tricky periods as Yasir Shah and co attempted to spin a web.

Australia’s draw in Dubai was one of the most famous escapes in the history of the national team - there is no question about that.

It never would have happened without Khawaja batting for the best part of 140 overs, and with his form on song in Sydney, there is no reason he should be left out this winter in the sub-continent.

It’s going to be a challenge, but Khawaja is the man for the job in giving Australia the best chance possible of reversing a horror show over the last 40 years on the sub-continent.