Steven Smith’s inclusion and Usman Khawaja’s lack of in the Australian party in India is the most questionable thing to come of this series. Forget everything else.
You can question giving the captaincy to Shane Watson after being dropped from the third Test or the place of Glenn Maxwell in this squad, let alone the side, if you would desire.
But continuing to deny Usman Khawaja a place in the side, while putting a halt to his domestic duties, must do little for both his technical game and his confidence.
Put aside for a moment those other things that have arisen these past few weeks and realise that a very promising player is being denied a place in this Test team by a man who has been groomed to fit a limited overs format.
Originally I didn’t buy into the idea that the selections were ruining the team’s chances of making a real impact on the subcontinent.
However I’m becoming more and more convinced I should be applying for a job on the selection panel – along with thousands of other Australian cricket fans.
So why then do I want Khawaja so badly to take Smith’s place?
Statistics won’t allow you to accurately compare the pair. They’d tell you that Smith has the higher Test average and even an extra Test to his name. Meaningless.
The real issue lies in their respective backgrounds in different match formats.
Smith has vast experience in limited overs cricket and much more match time for his country. Khawaja is far less experienced, but until his recent foray into limited overs cricket (which was a bizarre selection to say the least), he was being groomed to play in a style that works in a Test match format.
Instead he’s getting no experience over in India except getting better at sitting down. Not the most useful of cricket skills.
Before this series neither man had played a Test match in over two years. Doesn’t logic say if you had to choose between the two you should play the man better suited and, more importantly, the one who has practiced to adapt, to Test cricket?
Khawaja has also had no chance to prove himself on a turning wicket, having played all his few Tests on lively, pace-favouring wickets in Australia and South Africa.
He could benefit from a change, as well as gain some crucial experience on a vastly different surface.
Steve Smith’s 92 in the previous Test is an outlier in an otherwise poor showing throughout his career in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka on said pitches. That’s not just in Test cricket but in all formats.
If people want to also discuss Smith’s flexibility in the squad due to his bowling, I’d really be hoping Smith wasn’t included in the squad for his bowling in the first place.
He’s bowled six wickets from nine innings of Test match bowling in Asia. Not even close enough to warrant a future place in a Test bowling attack. Smith has been given the chance to prove himself with both bat and ball in Test cricket and, until his 92, he looked like a horrendous choice.
Now he’s given himself a safety buffer with that score and pushes Khawaja further away from the first team. But credit where it’s due to Smith for doing so – if you can step up when the pressure’s on, it becomes harder to remove you from a place you’re trying to keep.
Seeing as these two occupy different roles in a team it may be hard to attempt to compare them.
But I don’t understand the mentality of the selectors by picking someone they’ve played for so long in game with completely different attitudes to scoring rates and play style. It hurts the more I think about it.
Don’t think for a moment I’m sour with Smith, I actually feel sorry for the man. He’s got a game suited for one day and T20 cricket but seems lost in the whites.
Still, I don’t understand how we can expect incredible results from players when you shift them between formats as simply as pawns on a chessboard.
Expecting great results to follow from limited overs to Test cricket is like asking a union player to adapt to the stop and start nature of league.
What message is that sending to up and coming players? That their experience in different formats and the time dedicated to learning them counts for absolutely nothing? Not very inspiring.
At times it feels harsh to put the boot into the selection panel, sitting here behind the safety of a computer screen and my keyboard, but when they continue to make questionable choice after questionable choice it takes the sting out of being so scathing.