Usman Khawaja will make way for Shaun Marsh in Australia's playing XI during the first of four Tests at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, starting next week, per reports. Khawaja, 30, has been left out of Australia's tour match that begins Friday against an Indian A side.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Khawaja, who averages 47.94 from 23 Tests, is being overlooked for the first Test due to his struggles in Sri Lanka last year. Though the southpaw averaged 58 during the recently-concluded home Tests against South Africa and Pakistan, his struggles on slow and low surfaces in the subcontinent has given Australia's selectors reason to question his place in the team.
Khawaja is the only Aussie batsman to aggregate over 1,000 first-class runs during the 2016-17 season, powered by three centuries and an average of 63. However, the selectors, at this stage, have a little more faith in Shaun Marsh, who has fared well during previous tours to India and Sri Lanka. During the third and final Test of Australia's forgettable tour of Sri Lanka last year, Marsh replaced Khawaja in the XI and responded with a well-crafted century.
Australia's tour of India: Steven Smith to bat at No. 3
David Warner and Matt Renshaw will continue their pairing as Australia's Test openers while skipper Steven Smith will assume the No. 3 spot. The middle-order will likely see the Marsh brothers (Shaun and Mitchell) along with Peter Handscomb. Glenn Maxwell, the other all-rounder in the squad, will participate in the ongoing tour game -- and could eventually replace Mitchell Marsh in the Test XI.
The The Daily Telegraph report added that Australia coach Darrenn Lehmann is still undecided on the No. 6 spot. "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."
Australia likely XI for Pune Test: David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Steve Smith (captain), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Marsh, Matt Wade, Mitchell Starc, Steve O’Keefe, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood. Stay tuned for the latest news and updates surrounding Australia's tour of India. The first Test will be held in Pune between Feb. 23-27.