If we were talking a year ago, before the dreaded bans robbed Australia of their two best batsmen, Usman Khawaja would have been an easy pick to make the World Cup, but since then he lost form dramatically. Has he done enough in the recent 5-ODI series in India to elevate himself into consideration?
First, let’s consider the pecking order.
In tests, it is Steve Smith then David Warner with Usman Khawaja in third place. Even an out of form Khawaja still makes the test team. Even with the exciting form of newcomer Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson and Travis Head, you’d be a fool to leave him out.
But what about in ODIs?
In ODIs, it is David Warner who is Australia’s best, and Smith isn’t number 2 either: that position goes to Aaron Finch, who doubles as Australia’s captain. While Finch is out of form, he is still going to be picked because of just how good he is when he is in form. After Finch probably comes Smith, though Maxwell is close behind. All of them are ahead of Khawaja even when Khawaja is in form.
Being the 5th best batsman should put you in the team, but only when you are in form, and we aren’t quite sure that Khawaja is. The performance of absolute hunch Ashton Turner to win Australia a match from nowhere potentially pushed Khawaja down to 6th best. While arguably Khawaja is far better than Turner, the selectors are probably going to at least want to put Turner in the squad.
Then we’ve got Marcus Stoinis, the player with the terrible domestic record who just keeps performing at international level. With an ODI batting average of 43.04, and the ability to bowl a solid 10 overs, he is hard to ignore. Khawaja’s average is slightly worse at 42.00 and his strike rate is lower too – 83.56 compared to 94.32 for Stoinis.
So we’ve got Khawaja clinging on to 7th spot, someone who might make the side but might not, but is still probably just barely in the squad.
Then there’s Chris Lynn, the guy with the incredible domestic record in all formats who keeps getting injured and, so far at least, hasn’t performed at international level. He’s the kind of surprise packet you’d probably pick in the World Cup squad, even though he might not play every match.
Then there’s Travis Head, who was not so long ago one of the first players picked in ODIs, as well as D’Arcy Short, another who did so well early but then faded, both of whom are challenging for this spot.
Then there is the possibility of picking Matthew Wade, possibly the most in-form player in Australia, potentially being picked as a pure batsman, since Alex Carey is the best wicket keeper in the country and we want our best wicket keeper to play.
Then there’s Peter Handscomb, someone who few are considering for World Cup selection, but just scored 52 and 117 in his last two matches, and can also keep wicket.
And that’s before we consider the Marsh brothers, with Shaun Marsh scoring an ODI century in January while Mitchell Marsh still has a great ODI record.
But then let’s look at Khawaja’s series in India.
Two centuries and two half centuries in four matches. Even his bad outing was still pretty good, scoring 38 at better than a run a ball. Was his 50 off 76 a failure? Maybe kind of but not really.
With Aaron Finch’s form lacking, Khawaja may be a good second option to open the innings, were Finch to be left out. While Finch is likely to be in the World Cup squad, if his form continues being as bad as it is, then he may not play every match. David Warner also has uncertain form as he has been out of cricket for so long, so there is a chance that he may miss out.
This is my probable 15-man World Cup squad for Australia:
Matthew Wade (wk)
There is no guarantee that Khawaja will get there, and don’t forget that we still have a series against Pakistan in the UAE to go, but right now he has form, and he has ability, so right now he is there, but only just.