Usman Khawaja won’t play Sheffield Shield ahead of ODI duties. (Photo by Saeed Khan / AFP)
Usman Khawaja won’t play Sheffield Shield ahead of ODI duties. (Photo by Saeed Khan / AFP)

Cup the priority as selectors face balancing act

USMAN Khawaja's Ashes preparations won't come into consideration when selectors announce Australia's latest one-day squad this week.

Australia is now dealing with the competing forces of how to best fine-tune players for the respective challenges presented by the limited-overs World Cup and the Ashes.

However, coach Justin Langer has declared that mixing and matching players and formats is not an option, with the World Cup needing to now be treated as the immediate priority.

Langer said only minimal changes will be made to the one-day squad that lost 2-1 to India in January when the latest party is announced for a five-match series in India starting later this month.

Immediately following that, Australia will have five more ODIs against Pakistan in the UAE - and the road to picking the final World Cup 15 is now into its final stretch.

There has been a feeling expressed behind the scenes that perhaps Khawaja's Ashes prospects would be best served by him going back to play Sheffield Shield cricket for Queensland after struggling against the red ball right up until his breakthrough hundred in his final innings against Sri Lanka.

But Khawaja was recalled to the one-day set-up last month and that is where he appears likely to stay, unless there's a last-minute change of heart by selectors.

Langer has been taken by the dedication of Khawaja during a tough period in his cricketing and personal life.

Justin Langer says the World Cup has become Australia’s immediate priority. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Justin Langer says the World Cup has become Australia’s immediate priority. Picture: Phil Hillyard

"I'm really proud of Uzzie. He came back from that knee injury, and he had to work really hard to get back from that," Langer said.

"It's not just Tests, now he's back in our one-day side as well.

"There are reasons for that: the way he's transformed his body.

"I thought we did really well in that (last one-day) series. They were all three close games. We know the style of play we're looking to play. So I can't see too many changes."

Langer will have some key Ashes prospects like Joe Burns, Kurtis Patterson, Marnus Labuschagne, Matt Renshaw, Marcus Harris and possibly Travis Head all playing Shield cricket over the next couple of months against the Duke's ball, and then more first-class games against Australia A in the UK at the same time the World Cup is running.

However, for others like all-round hopefuls Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh, and a player like Khawaja, they may barely see a red-ball between now and the first Ashes Test.

A number of Ashes hopefuls will have Shield opportunities to press their claims. (AAP Image/Darren England)
A number of Ashes hopefuls will have Shield opportunities to press their claims. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Langer says that's simply the way it has to be.

"It's a tough schedule as we all know but we've got a World Cup coming up as well. We want to get as close to the World Cup squad as we can over the next 12 games," he said.

"So you can't really afford to do that (allow ODI stars to play Shield), I won't reckon.

"We've got to keep our eyes very clearly on what's best for the team, not what's best for individuals. That doesn't work.

"It'd be hard to do that. It'd be good for some individuals to do that, but we've also got to win the World Cup. That's just the schedule we deal with."

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News Corp Australia


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