Why is Usman Khawaja in India? It’s a pretty simple question, and one any of the selectors or Cricket Australia officials would have a great deal of trouble answering to my satisfaction.
The team for the third Test will be announced at the toss, and according to an article on the Cricket Australia website, the decision for the no.6 spot is down to Glenn Maxwell or Marcus Stoinis. This makes it very likely that we are witnessing the second Indian tour in a row that Usman Khawaja has been taken and not played a Test.
What is the point of taking him to India if he is never going to be permitted to play?
Commenters of all stripes, on this site and elsewhere, like to trot out the line that “Khawaja can’t play spin” (which is demonstrably false and simply requires watching his batting over the last 18 months in Australia) or that “Khawaja can’t score on the sub-continent” (which is demonstrably false as he has a first class century in Sri Lanka and a List A century in India to his name) and “Khawaja has a poor record on the sub-continent” (which with an average of 19.1 from four Tests is demonstrably true, but puts him in the same bracket of performance as David Warner who averages 25.3 from nine Tests on the sub-continent).
In the home summer just passed, Khawaja scored 581 runs at 58.1 (including one century) with a half-century in every match, while Warner scored 592 runs at 53.8 (two centuries) including a run of three matches without a half-century. Selectors always seem to be reluctant to change a winning team, unless that change is to drop Khawaja.
More importantly, at the moment (as was the case during the 2013 tour) the Sheffield Shield is still going in back in Australia. Khawaja, who is now the captain of Queensland, could be playing there and maintaining his imperious form from the summer. It would undoubtedly be better preparation for the upcoming Champions Trophy and Ashes than sitting on the boundary in an orange bib and visiting the local golf courses in India.
This question needs to be asked, and I genuinely want a journalist to put this to Darren Lehmann or Trevor Hohns: “Do the selectors believe Usman Khawaja is poorly suited to playing and scoring runs on the subcontinent and is therefore not part of the team under a ‘horses for courses’ approach?”
If yes, then why is he on tour in India instead of playing in the Sheffield Shield?
If no, then why is he not in the Test XI given his form?
It isn’t as if the current top order (other than Matt Renshaw and Steve Smith) is putting on a compelling case for retention this series: David Warner has returned 98 runs at 24.5, Shaun Marsh 91 runs at 23.0, and Peter Handscomb 81 runs at 20.3.
It is quite frankly ridiculous that a touring squad of 16 was taken to India, and yet despite injuries that a squad is designed to cover, two replacements have been flown over and are quite likely to play while the original touring squad ‘reserves’ just sit around.
If the rationale (and I have seen several posters defending the situation with this line) is that a like-for-like replacement is needed for either an all-rounder or a strike bowler, why have a squad at all? Why not send eleven players and fly over someone else when you need them?
That is what they are doing anyway, flying over people as they want them instead of utilising the squad.
I am still none the wiser, why is Usman Khawaja in India?