Australia v India, 5th ODI, Sydney January 22, 2016

Tough to find spot for Khawaja - Smith


It has been quite a summer, across formats, for Usman Khawaja © Getty Images and Cricket Australia

Australia's captain Steven Smith admits it will be difficult to fit Usman Khawaja into Australia's limited-overs teams despite his dominant recent performances across all formats of the game.

Khawaja's unbeaten century in Adelaide on Thursday night, to guide the Sydney Thunder into their first Big Bash League final appearance, was the latest standout innings in a summer of many. Since a tour match against a New Zealand XI in Canberra in October his scores across all forms have been 111*, 21, 11, 174, 9*, 121, 109*, 144, 56, 62 and 104*.

Smith spoke glowingly of the way Khawaja was playing, and noted that he had also improved greatly in terms of areas like fielding and running between the wickets, two skills considered even more pivotal in ODIs and Twenty20 matches than Tests. However he pointed to a strong and settled 50-over batting line-up as evidence that Khawaja will be difficult to accommodate, even in his current form.

"He has certainly got the capabilities to be able to play for Australia in those formats," Smith said. "It's a very tough side to break into at the moment, we're playing some very good cricket as it is, we're up 4-0 in this series. I'm sure if he does get an opportunity he'll take it with both hands.

"I think he's continually improving and working on those parts of the game. Fielding's very important for an Australian team, we hold ourselves to very high standards and he works extremely hard on it, so hopefully he can continue getting better at it, but he's going okay at the moment.

"I thought he batted beautifully again last night, it was great to see him score another hundred and get another Sydney side into the Big Bash final. If he comes in and gets an opportunity, I'll see where he's best suited. I think the order's pretty settled at the moment, so we'll wait and see how that all pans out."

One circumstance that may allow Khawaja to squeeze into the Australian limited-overs batting order is a schedule that does not allow any room for a first-class warm-up fixture before the looming Test series in New Zealand. Cricket Australia have scheduled a Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Western Australia in Lincoln near Christchurch as a way of providing some preparation, however Khawaja's status as a Queensland cricketer means his best avenue may be to play in the ODIs that precede the Tests.

A fellow Queenslander, the opener Joe Burns, is in a similar predicament, and the team performance manager Pat Howard has suggested there is a possibility of changing the ODI squad with an eye towards the New Zealand Tests. Smith, however, appeared to need further convincing about this concept.

"I'm not sure about that," Smith said. "NSW and WA are playing a Shield game in New Zealand as well, so everyone's been playing a lot of cricket, the conditions aren't too dissimilar to what we get here if the wicket's got a bit of grass on it, and guys are playing plenty of cricket, so I think we'll be plenty prepared for that tour.

"As far as I'm concerned I want to win every series we play. It's another opportunity for guys to play away from home as well. We've been playing some very good cricket at home and I want to win another one-day series away. Its about having the best guys on deck to do that."

Nevertheless, Smith has already made one concession towards future assignments by promoting the allrounder Mitchell Marsh to bat at No. 3 against India at Manuka Oval in order to grant him time in the middle. Other such compromises may yet be required if the likes of Khawaja are to be given their best chance of succeeding in New Zealand, a series that offers Australia the chance of pouching the No. 1 Test ranking.

"It was about giving Mitchell a bat," Smith said of Marsh. "He hasn't had much of a bat this summer, we've got some big series coming up in New Zealand, so I would've liked him to spend some time in the middle. For us going forward it's just about trying to win games and it's whatever the best line-up is to win a game."

Glenn Maxwell is a doubtful starter for Saturday's final ODI due to knee soreness after he sustained a knock while batting in Canberra, meaning the selectors will have a choice between Scott Boland and Shaun Marsh for the final spot in the hosts' XI.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sean on January 25, 2016, 2:48 GMT

    Totally disagree Steve Smith - it is easy to accommodate Khawaja who is the best one day batsmen in Australia at the moment. Just drop Marsh. He is not in the test team as a number 3 and Khawaja is. Khawaja has shown that he is excelling at the short form of the game averaging above 250. I am bewildered why the selectors are picking Marsh over Khawaja. Australia at last have a natural number 3 batmen and they don't come along very often - they should be doing everything they can to cement Khawaja in this position by giving him every opportunity.

  • Craig on January 24, 2016, 2:16 GMT

    How did Scott Boland get a spot in this ODI squad. More to the point how did he maintain his place in the side? In the four games he played he has the earth shattering figures of 1 wicket for 255 runs.

  • Allan on January 23, 2016, 8:07 GMT

    Khawaja is averaging above 250, he is the best batsman after Smith and Warner, lets get him in all the formats

  • Craig on January 23, 2016, 4:33 GMT

    Marsh is no test certainty so why is he playing today? Wheras Khawaja is in the first test.. T20 cricket is not a very suitable preparation for test cricket. But without a restart to shield cricket for another week or so. I would have thought all the cricket Ussie plays is better than none.

  • Nick on January 23, 2016, 3:11 GMT

    I know the answer to why Khawaja is not selected for Oneday or T20 world cup. Two reasons, 1)Because of Marsh brothers and Geoff Marsh's Family favouritism!!!This is not a family business Cricket, you should represent for the country. 2) Because he is from different cultural background even though an Australian . May be both reasons or one of them. Otherwise Smith can not justify this kind of a form player left out from T20 world cup and ODI with India. He is form of his life and even more than Smith himself. Now Don't tell otherwise to justify your logic. Angry fan !! Please publish !!

  • Abdul on January 23, 2016, 1:50 GMT

    1) Warner - batter 2) Khawaja - batter 3) Finch - batter (2 overs) 4) Smith - all-rounder (5 overs) 5) Bailey - batter 6) Maxwell - all-rounder (5 overs) 7) Faulkner - all-rounder (8 overs) 8) Wade - Keeper 9)Hastings - Bowler (10 overs) 10) Richardson - Bowler (10 overs) 11) Lyon -(10 overs)

    This is the team I want to see on Sydney. A very strong batting line-up, alongside plenty of bowling options. I just don't understand why Mitch Marsh is prioritised ahead of Khawaja.

  • Ian Jones on January 22, 2016, 22:37 GMT

    Adding to the international flavour of the Aussie team

  • niaz on January 22, 2016, 21:20 GMT

    Khawja is definitely better than Shawn Marsh. Warner, Maxwell, Smith , Bailey and Faulkner are not replaceable. If Australia is rotating it is a good idea to rotate Khawja. Is Clark is playing ODIs and T20Is? How is he going to get back in the team?

  • rob on January 22, 2016, 21:14 GMT

    I agree with @ Drew12 that Khawaja for Marsh isn't a good swap. Marsh has bowled pretty well and we need his overs. I'm not sure why they bat him any higher than 7/8 though. It's a mystery to me.

  • Ayaz Hussain on January 22, 2016, 19:02 GMT

    Sad to hear, such third class comments from Smith, Khawaja is far better than current Australia squad , I thought references is working only in Asian countries, but sad to see and hear that reference is now workable in Australia

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