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Khawaja shuffle adds intrigue to Test squad

Daniel Brettig

December 5, 2012

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A

Usman Khawaja faces up while Phillip Hughes watches from slip, Queensland v South Australia, Sheffield Shield, Brisbane, day one, October 1, 2012
Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes are both in contention to replace Ricky Ponting © Getty Images
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Usman Khawaja will be an Australian Test aspirant one day and a Twenty20 billboard the next after a hurried compromise between Cricket Australia and the Sydney Thunder following Michael Clarke's forced withdrawal from the opening round of the BBL.

Named as captain of the CA Chairman's XI to face the Sri Lankans in Canberra from Thursday, Khawaja will be withdrawn from the match on the Saturday morning and fly up to Sydney in time to take part in the Thunder's opening match against the Sydney Sixers at the SCG.

After Australia's team physio Alex Kountouris strongly recommended that Clarke be ruled out of the opening round of the BBL - his one scheduled appearance for the Thunder before the start of the Test series against Sri Lanka - the BBL side immediately requested that Khawaja be withdrawn from the tour match at Manuka.

A hasty round of negotiations followed between CA, the Thunder and Cricket NSW, resulting in a compromise whereby Khawaja will play for two days with the Chairman's XI before also playing for the Thunder as their biggest local name in the absence of Clarke.

Discussion of how Khawaja's batting services would be spread across the weekend took place against the backdrop of selection talk about the make-up of the Australian Test side for the first match of the series against Sri Lanka in Hobart. The squad is due to be named on Thursday.

Khawaja is part of a four-way battle to replace Ricky Ponting in Australia's batting order, also including Phillip Hughes, Alex Doolan and Rob Quiney. Doolan is also taking part in the Chairman's XI match, while Quiney and Hughes will be playing this weekend for the Melbourne Stars and the Adelaide Strikers, respectively.

With 570 runs at 81.42 this summer including an unbeaten 161 for Australia A against the South Africans in Sydney, Doolan is second only to Clarke among Australia first-class run scorers this summer. Hughes is third with 524 runs at 47.63, while Khawaja's 438 runs at 39.81 places him fifth. Doolan said Hughes and Quiney were both ahead of him in his own mind.

"If I was picking the team I'd probably put Phil Hughes in there just simply through weight of runs," Doolan told AAP in Canberra. "It seems every time he steps onto the crease he's hitting runs and hitting them at good pace and in a consistent way.

"I'm not saying that I'd be happy to have someone picked ahead of me but I think Bobby [Quiney] deserves it as much as anyone. I really hope he gets another crack at it. He deserved his call-up to the national team and obviously results didn't go his way but that just shows what the game is.

"It's a fickle game and sometimes results don't go your way but I've no doubt he's Test quality and I'm sure he'd show it if he got another go."

Injuries to Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings have reduced the selectors' bowling options for the Hobart Test, leaving Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus to slot back into the squad alongside Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon.

Possible Test squad: Michael Clarke (capt), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by pat_one_back on (December 8, 2012, 3:49 GMT)

What at first seemed like logical choices now questionable after being so poorly explained. Quiney was WATSON's short term replacement, Ricky's spot was not up for grabs at the time and so it seemed appropriate to pass over those next in line (Phil & Ussie) since Aust never bring long term prospects in as short term back fills, can stunt development. Now Ricky's spot has opened, it was unnecessary to share that Hughes (and Khawaja) were shielded, smart to provide a long runway for a long term replacement, not so smart telling everyone!!!! Undoubtedly Hughes or Khawaja would have placed themselves under enormous pressure against SA, how many times can you fail whilst establishing yourself...

Posted by eng_mdkhan on (December 7, 2012, 14:56 GMT)

Since the Aussies have a rotation policy so I think both can be given a fair chance albeit that has to be decided by the people who know their job. I have heard good about Khawaja and seen him on TV and from what I have seen he seems to be a good bet for the long run on the other hand Hughes has this jittery demeanor and I have seen him do really bad. But if Hughes has turned the corner then its a different story. I think the Aussie cricket board is going the BCCI way.....a non merit based selection system.

Posted by Busie1979 on (December 7, 2012, 10:17 GMT)

Hughes has a better overall record and better form than Khawaja in Test and FC cricket. Hughes should be picked. Selectors were right not to pick him for South Africa - he needs to find his feet and build confidence. He was thrown to the wolves last time - picked when out of form with no experienced players with him in the top 3. He needs to be managed carefully. Both are potentially solid Test cricketers but I don't expect either to be world beaters and both are fielding liabilities who don't bowl. For the record - Khawaja didn't choose to play the 20/20 - he was told to. My top 6: (1) Cowan (like Quiney a stop-gap) (2) Warner (3) Hussey (4) Clarke (5) Hughes (6) Watson.

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 2:36 GMT)

Can't quite fathom how they're doing this. What's with the doublespeak? If Hughes isn't good enough, he isn't good enough. Just betrays an agenda to get him in no matter what. As far as I know, Khawaja and all other contenders for the no.3 spot are being royally jerked around, nay, made to feel as if they don't really exist. So you mollycoddle this one bloke, cotton-wool him against greater opposition by using a human shield (poor Rob Quiney), while telling the others they can continue to display excellent form without warranting a look-in because we've earmarked a consistently misfiring opener for the no.3 slot who we think isn't up to it anyway but for some birthright. Nicely played, NSP.

Posted by swat1999 on (December 6, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

Usman Khawaja should give chance for Pnting place at Hobert. He is an excellent stroke player

Posted by .Raina on (December 6, 2012, 5:40 GMT)

Hughes' selection looks surprising, especially for the position he has been picked up, but practically he has always been ahead of others in terms of numbers (& his supporters in CA). His greatest attraction is the runs he puts on, and his consistency. Khawaja is also a great talent and somehow scores runs in difficult conditions, and I feel the selectors are waiting for him to be a bit more consistent. He always gets starts but his conversion rates of 50s to 100s hasn't been very good. And Hughes more often than not gets to 3-figures after getting a start. Hughes should play as an opener, and not as a replacement for No.3, and this would lead to a change in the batting order that is anyway not settled yet.....Mr. Cricket should come up, if Pup doesn't have the confidence to do so himself.....

Posted by shaz101 on (December 6, 2012, 0:34 GMT)

Hughes was a failure attempt after attempt and now you will give this prick another chance... Khawaja is no certain to score and may not be a international player but giving him another try will be best option.. Hughes had too many failures at international level.

Posted by   on (December 5, 2012, 23:13 GMT)

Khawaja or Hughes in for Ponting, and batting at 3. Clarke 4, Hussey 5, Watson 6.

I would have said Khawaja is first choice for the spot, but have changed my mind, as it appears he would rather play pointless 20/20 cricket...

Posted by Big_Chikka on (December 5, 2012, 23:01 GMT)

ageism shouldn't be part of any selection process, if you tick the boxes you should get the opportunities unless of course there's a box that says is he under 27 or something? or he took too long making it in fist class cricket :).

Posted by ak_dragon on (December 5, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

Where is SHAUN MARSH....he has good batting Average against Sri Lanka..

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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