Sport

Khawaja facing Test axe for Marsh

Australian cricketers Shaun Marsh (left) and Usman Khawaja.
Australian cricketers Shaun Marsh (left) and Usman Khawaja. JULIAN SMITH

USMAN Khawaja looks set to become the victim of selectors' hotly contentious plan to reinstall Shaun Marsh as Australia's Indian linchpin.

The horses for courses push to bring back Marsh started last month, when coach Darren Lehmann hinted that opener Matt Renshaw wasn't necessarily safe at the top of the order, despite his massive maiden century at the SCG.

However, as it stands it would appear Khawaja is the man on the ropes as the decks are cleared for Marsh, who has a strong track record in subcontinental conditions.

Left out of Australia's tour match on Friday against an Indian A side, Khawaja may now be relying on injury or an epic fail from one of the top order to save his No.3 spot for the first Test in Pune next week.

Khawaja is paying a very dear price for his struggles in Sri Lanka last year, particularly given he turned in another fruitful home summer with the bat, while Marsh nursed his latest injury and missed five straight Tests.

Khawaja averages 47.9 in Test cricket, with five centuries, compared to Marsh's average of 40, with four centuries.

Khawaja is the only Australian cricketer to have scored more than 1000 first-class runs this summer, including three centuries and an average of 63.

From the six Test matches he played against South Africa and Pakistan, Khawaja sat third behind only Steve Smith and David Warner with an average of 58.

In Adelaide, Khawaja posted arguably the most important ton of the summer, when he dug deep to produce a masterful knock that single-handedly broke Australia's five-match losing streak.

Now the 30-year-old would appear to be on the brink of being benched for 33-year-old Marsh.

Australia's 3-0 whitewash loss against Sri Lanka last year was an unmitigated disaster at the time, but it's clear now it's proving the blueprint for what Australia believes will work in India.

Marsh came into the side for the third Test in Sri Lanka and crafted a brilliant century, whereas Khawaja found himself dropped by that point following a series of low scores.

Renshaw, at 20 years of age, will open with David Warner on Friday, virtually putting an end to speculation the young gun would lose his place.

However, the potential omission of Khawaja is arguably just as controversial, given the elegant left-hander has been Australia's third best performing batsman over the past couple of years behind Steve Smith and Warner.

There are ongoing fears about Khawaja's wristy approach to playing spinners on turning decks, although the star run-scorer had flagged changes to his technique this time around.

With Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe all virtually assured first Test selection, the only position up for grabs now may be the No.6 all-rounder battle between Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell.

It's understood Marsh is favoured, but Maxwell could come into contention if the wicket in Pune looks like a raging turner that would suit slow bowling.

News Corp Australia

Topics:  australian cricket team shaun marsh test cricket tour of india usman khawaja



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