Cricket Australia announced its central contracts for the upcoming year on Thursday. The list of 20 players is loaded with limited overs specialists with an eye on the two T20 World Cups, which are slated to take place over the next two years. As a result of this some big names were excluded, which included left handed top order batsman Usman Khawaja. Khawaja last played for Australia during the Ashes series in England, when he was dropped mid-way through the series due to his uncertain form.
He last played a T20I for Australia way back in 2016 and hasn’t featured in an ODI since playing in the 2019 ICC World Cup. Given these factors, his exclusion does make sense, but former Australia captain Michael Clarke has questioned the decision.
“I find it very hard to believe that someone with the talent and the runs behind him over 10 years isn’t in Australia’s top 20 players,” Clarke said of Khawaja on Big Sports Breakfast.
Khawaja has clashed a few times with Justin Langer but the Australian coach has maintained that he respects the fact that Khawaja might have a different opinion about things and Clarke doesn’t feel the axe has come for personal reasons.
“I would like to think it’s nothing personal,” Clarke said. “I don’t think JL is like that,” he added.
Cricket Australia chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns spoke about how hard it was to drop Khawaja from the list. But he mentioned the fact that Khawaja’s performance in the domestic limited overs competitions has not been worthy of an ODI recall and the only way he can return to the Test squad is as an opener and those are the reasons that worked against him.
“Uzzy was a difficult one for us, probably the hardest one,” Hohns said on Thursday, adding that this was not necessarily the end of Khawaja’s international career.
“We know Usman’s a fabulous player and I don’t have any doubt he’ll accept the challenge … to get back into that Australian side.
“He has been a pretty good player for Australia but unfortunately the last 12 months haven’t been his best.
“So a lot will depend on how Usman comes back, where he bats for his state and then it’s a matter of really demanding to be chosen again,” Hohns said.
“There’s no doubt Usman could perform that role,” Hohns said of Khawaja’s chances as an opener in Test cricket.