Australian selector Tony Dodemaide has said he will take a call on whether in-form batter Usman Khawaja will play in the fifth and final Ashes Test or not only after seeing how “people pull up physically and medically" in the wake of the COVID-19 surge in the country.
The Australian cricket team too has been impacted by the virus with star batter Travis Head testing positive for COVID-19 following the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne and captain Pat Cummins missing the second Test at Adelaide after coming in contact with a COVID-positive person.
Khawaja, who came in as a replacement for Head in the fourth Test at Sydney, has mounted a compelling case to retain his spot after scoring 137 and an unbeaten 101 in the drawn game. With Head having supposedly recovered from COVID-19, he too would be eyeing a spot in the Hobart Test, scheduled to commence on January 14.
Head has averaged 62 over the first three Tests with a highest of 152 in the opening Test at The Gabba, which the hosts won by nine wickets.
“That’s certainly the most challenging conversation to have (on Khawaja)," Dodemaide told SEN Mornings on Tuesday. “I think we’ve got to just let things settle for a day or two… there’s a few things to take into account before we finalise the selections. We also need to see exactly how people pull up physically and medically… remember the past two games, we’ve had to make forced changes based on COVID. We’re not making too many assumptions as yet."
Dodemaide said it would be hard to deny the credentials of the 35-year-old Khawaja, whose maiden appearance in the Test side in more than two-and-a-half years saw him scores two centuries in the Sydney Test.
“He’s a quality player, coming off very strong performance. (But) we’ll need to see the conditions here at Bellerive, we haven’t been able to get to the ground. We’ll get to the ground for training tomorrow, and have a look at the pitch there… it’s a pink ball, it’s a day-night, so all those considerations will need to be taken into account," added Dodemaide.
Dodemaide also hinted that Marcus Harris could continue in his role as opener, though he has passed 50 only once in seven innings.
“The bare numbers don’t always tell the full story. It’s much like a lot of performances and a lot of selection conundrums we do have. He’s had a number of starts which could have gone on to more consequential innings.
“But that 70-odd that he got in Melbourne only two weeks ago was the most consequential innings in the match. He set up the score for Australia which eventually led to the innings win.
“So even though it wasn’t a hundred and I know he would be desperate to record his first hundred as an opener, 76 in those conditions was probably as good as a hundred."
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