MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia captain Steve Smith has backed discarded batsman Usman Khawaja for a recall and a “big” home summer against England after he was overlooked for the test series in India.
The stylish number three Khawaja was named in Australia’s squad for the upcoming two-test Bangladesh series after missing out on selection for the series defeat in India.
“I think Usman’s going to be a really big player for us this summer,” Smith told local media.
“He’s done incredibly well in Australia over the last couple of years and it would be good for him to (play) some cricket… he’s chomping at the bit to get out there and I daresay he’ll get his opportunity.”
Australia play England in the five-test Ashes starting in November and five one-day internationals, before taking on the same opponents and New Zealand in a T20 tri-series.
In the last home summer, Khawaja topped the runs list in a losing cause against South Africa before averaging 66.75 against Pakistan.
He was called up for the February-March tour of India but ended up carrying the drinks as his replacement Shaun Marsh managed only 151 runs at an average of 18.87 from his eight innings.
Khawaja was dismissed cheaply in both innings of the intra-team warmup match in Darwin this week and there are queries over his modest batting record in South Asia.
Khawaja was dropped for the final match of the away test series away against Sri Lanka last year after a string of low scores. Smith batted at three against India but said he would go down a slot if Khawaja was selected.
“I’d say if Usman plays he’ll probably bat three and I’ll slot in at four,” he said. “I see Usman as more of a top-order batsman and I don’t really have a big issue, whether it’s three or four — I won’t go lower than that.”