Khawaja called up as cover for Ponting
Ricky Ponting is expected to recover from his broken finger in time to lead Australia at the MCG on Boxing Day, but the selectors have included New South Wales batsman Usman Khawaja in the squad as a precautionary measure. Khawaja, who just turned 24, is uncapped and will join the team in Melbourne on Wednesday.
"While the NSP (national selection panel) are confident Ricky Ponting will be available for the Boxing Day Test, through an abundance of caution we have named Usman Khawaja as the standby player," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of the panel, said. "Usman richly deserves this opportunity following his excellent form at domestic level last season and continuing on this season."
Khawaja had also been included as cover for Michael Clarke, when the vice-captain was struggling with a back problem in the lead-up to the first Test in Brisbane. He is presently in Sydney, where he scored a 78 for New South Wales in the second innings of their Sheffield Shield game against Queensland.
However, Australia's batting coach Justin Langer was extremely confident of Ponting recovering. ''I would be amazed if Ricky doesn't play in this Test, he is that tough physically and mentally. At one-all, Boxing Day Test, a chance to win the Ashes, he will definitely be there," Langer told the Sydney Morning Herald. ''His injury might work in his favour. He has been trying so hard and this might help him relax and get ready for the Test match. Rather than working too much and doing batting beforehand, this might be the breather he wanted.''
Ponting sustained the injury when he dropped Jonathan Trott at second slip on the third afternoon at the WACA, with the rebound popping up to Brad Haddin. X-rays showed a small crack and he spent the morning of his 36th birthday in the dressing room to protect the injury. He walked out after the victory had been secured to level the series at 1-1 and congratulated his team-mates. Ponting hasn't been in form with the bat either, scoring 83 runs in six innings in this series, and averaging 38.95 in 24 Tests since the start of last year.
Squad: Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Michael Beer, Ben Hilfenhaus, Usman Khawaja.