Khawaja shuffle adds intrigue to Test squad
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Named as captain of the CA Chairman's XI to face the Sri Lankans in Canberra from Thursday, Khawaja will be withdrawn from the match on the Saturday morning and fly up to Sydney in time to take part in the Thunder's opening match against the Sydney Sixers at the SCG.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the Thunder before the start of the Test series against Sri Lanka - the BBL side immediately requested that Khawaja be withdrawn from the tour match at Manuka.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