Smith: Khawaja a likely starter in 1st Bangladesh test
Aug. 18, 2017
DARWIN, Australia (AP) — Captain Steve Smith says Usman Khawaja could return to the Australian lineup for the first time since January in the long-awaited first test in Bangladesh.
Smith said he was unsure whether Glenn Maxwell would retain the No. 6 spot in the order, with fellow allrounder Hilton Cartwright being considered for a call-up as the Australian squad braces for wet weather in Dhaka.
"I thought (Maxwell) performed really well in the last two test matches in India ... (but) we'll wait and see what the conditions look like, and what we feel the best make-up for the team is when we're over there," Smith said on Friday before the Australians departed for Dhaka.
Smith said Khawaja "is going to be a really big player for us this summer."
"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."
Khawaja scored at least 50 in all six home tests last year, but was dropped for the test series in India. The axing came after a disappointing two tests in Sri Lanka last year during which he was also dropped for the final match after scores of 26, 18, 11 and 0.
The 30-year-old Khawaja hasn't played for Australia since a limited-overs international against Pakistan in Sydney on Jan. 22.
Australia has not played a test match in Bangladesh since Ricky Ponting's team visited in 2006, six years after Bangladesh was granted test status. The Australians were due to play two tests in Bangladesh in October 2015, but the tour was canceled amid security fears after attacks by Islamist extremists.
It was also under threat until two weeks ago during a bitter and protracted pay dispute between the players and Cricket Australia, but a new memorandum of agreement was signed.
The team left as news of a letter written by coach Darren Lehmann to former and current Australia players was published by a Sydney newspaper. In it, Lehmann encourages players to get Australia back to the top of world cricket.
"We have been hunted for a while and now it is time for us to become the hunters and get back to where we belong," the Daily Telegraph quoted Lehmann as writing.
"It was only 12 months ago we were No. 1 in tests and one-dayers and for us to get back there it will only happen with all of us going in the one direction and supporting Australian cricket."
Australia is fourth in ICC test rankings and second behind South Africa in the ODI format.
Lehmann's team will play a warm-up match next Tuesday at Fatullah. The first test is at Dhaka's Shere Bangla National Stadium starts Aug. 27 and the second test starts Sept. 4 at Chittagong.
Australia has won all four of the tests between the nations, dating back to two innings victories in northern Australia in 2003, but has struggled on recent tours to the sub-continent.