Costly runout: Usman Khawaja fails to ground his bat and is run out for three during the first one-day international against Sri Lanka at the MCG. Photo: Reuters
AUSTRALIAN selectors have defended their treatment of Usman Khawaja after the batsman was given only a single match before he was shunted from the one-day team and then the squad too.
Khawaja had been named in the past three national-team squads – the second and third Tests against Sri Lanka and the start of the limited-overs series – but made only one appearance. He and the player who replaced him for Sunday's ODI loss in Adelaide, Steve Smith, were both casualties on Monday as first-choice players Michael Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade returned from brief rests.
Chief selector John Inverarity dismissed criticism that discarding the left-hander so quickly was unwarranted and also detrimental to his confidence.
"I indicated to them [Khawaja and Smith] that selecting them in the squad was a very clear signal from us that they are in contention, and that we want them to improve and want them to have some opportunity, and want them to be encouraged by us including them in the squad," he said. "They seemed to be very pleased with the message and very pleased to have been included.
"I think they would prefer one game to no games. It's not only playing in the game but being in the Australian squad for four or five days. And the intensity of training and being there with [coach] Mickey Arthur and the other support staff is a very good experience for them."
Recent debutants Ben Cutting, Aaron Finch and Kane Richardson were the other casualties as the squad was trimmed from 13 to 12 for the matches against Sri Lanka in Brisbane on Friday and Sydney on Sunday.
Inverarity conceded the promotion of NSW all-rounder Moises Henriques for at least the next two matches was partly an admission it had lacked sufficient pace-bowling options in Adelaide, with all-rounders Smith and Glenn Maxwell both spin bowlers.
Finch, the season's leading Ryobi Cup run-scorer, said he had no gripes at being left out after failing in his two innings against Sri Lanka given fellow opener Phillip Hughes made a century in Melbourne. "I'd have to say yes [it was enough time]. Good players stand up under pressure and he [Hughes] definitely did," Finch said.
"The most disappointing thing was the way that I played. I felt I didn't play my natural game and was a bit timid in my approach. That's the only thing I'd change."
Speculation about whether the recently recalled Brad Haddin would keep his place ahead of Wade proved moot after Haddin strained his hamstring in Adelaide.
Inverarity said there was a "real chance" Australia would take two wicketkeepers to India for the four-Test series, starting next month, and hoped the veteran would recover "in a couple of weeks".
Should Haddin not be fit for next month's tour, selectors are bullish about the field of stand-in deputies for Wade. Queensland stalwart Chris Hartley was the conspicuous absentee as Inverarity cited Tim Ludeman, Tim Paine, Peter Handscomb, Tom Triffitt and Peter Nevill as candidates.
Left-arm pacemen Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc were both retained in the squad, with Cricket Australia fitness staff believing it is likely each will recover from minor injuries in time for Friday's match.
Inverarity also said selectors were yet to determine whether Shane Watson and James Pattinson, who both missed much of the summer's Tests due to injury, would feature in any of the summer's ODIs or would instead focus on the Sheffield Shield to aid their preparation for the tour of India.
Pattinson made a successful comeback in club cricket last weekend.