Khawaja could have Shield hit before Test

Justin Langer admits a hectic schedule is compounding selection headaches but an update on Usman Khawaja has provided ‘s coach some much-needed positive news.
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Khawaja has undergone knee surgery and could potentially return for a Sheffield Shield hit-out prior to ‘s first Test against India, according to Langer.

Khawaja, who shapes as the first batsman picked in the Test XI if fit, suffered a torn left meniscus during ‘s loss to Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.

There were early fears the left-hander, who helped salvage a draw with an epic innings of 141 in Dubai, could miss the start of the four-Test series against India.

The first Test begins on December 6 but Khawaja’s comeback game could start on November 27, when Queensland host Victoria in a Shield match at the Gabba.

“Some of my messages yesterday were that he might be up for the Shield game before the first Test match, which would be a real bonus,” Langer told radio station SEN.

Langer admitted the race to be part of ‘s top six is “very open”, calling on under-fire veteran Shaun Marsh to “make it irresistible for us to pick him”.

The upcoming schedule means that Marsh’s red-ball form and white-ball numbers will shape whether his Test career ends.

Marsh will feature in Western ‘s Sheffield Shield clash with Tasmania this week then is expected to take part in ‘s ODI series against South Africa, which would mean he misses the third Shield round.

Glenn Maxwell, also likely to be picked in the ODI squad, headlines the list of Test aspirants missing the opening two Shield rounds due to ‘s Twenty20 series in the UAE.

“It’s a headache … it’s a hectic schedule and I guess you have to look at form as well as you can,” Langer said.

“It’s certainly tough for selection. There’s no doubt about it, it’s such a tough balancing act.”

Incumbent Test batsman Travis Head’s hopes of facing India would improve if Marsh is punted by national selectors but he was quick to defend n cricket’s whipping boy.

“Everyone within the dressing room knows how good he is and how valuable he is,” Head said, describing criticism of Marsh and his brother Mitchell as harsh.

“He will get more opportunity in one-day cricket … and find form then he’ll find himself in a big Test series and getting runs.”

Peter Handscomb, who could clinch a Test recall with a couple of impressive Shield innings, was also full of support for the squad that suffered a 1-0 Test series loss to Pakistan.

“We had an amazing game in the first one, to come away with a draw in tough conditions,” the Victoria captain said.

“That basically had one day in the media and it was onto batting collapses and stuff like that.”