Ponting backs Khawaja to make Australia’s World Cup squad - GulfToday

Ponting backs Khawaja to make Australia’s World Cup squad


Usman Khawaja could probably slot down at three in the Australia squad at the World Cup, insists Ponting.

New Delhi: In-form batsman Usman Khawaja should be part of Australia’s World Cup plans despite the imminent returns of Steve Smith and David Warner, former captain Ricky Ponting has said.

Khawaja struck 383 runs, including two centuries, in Australia’s 3-2 series win over India earlier this month and Ponting is of the view that the left-hander opener had earned his place at the World Cup.

“I think we all saw over the last few weeks just how skilful a player Usman Khawaja is... and I think when you see him play like that it just makes you wonder why he doesn’t do it a bit more regularly,” Ponting told reporters on Tuesday.

“I would be surprised if Khawaja wasn’t in the (World Cup) squad. Khawaja could probably slot down at three when Warner comes in and Steve Smith might bat at four or five or something just to shore up those middle overs.”

Smith and Warner were suspended for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year and are set to be reintegrated into the team ahead of the May 30-July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

Ponting, who led Australia to World Cup glory in 2003 and 2007, said current skipper Aaron Finch would continue to lead the side at this year’s tournament but former captain Smith could still be counted for advice.

“(Smith) is still out on the field, so he can help Aaron Finch out,” Ponting added. “I’d imagine that Aaron Finch would be leaning on Steve Smith a lot for a bit of advice, maybe leading into the games, as far as preparation is concerned.”

Meanwhile, the clamour in Australia to include Adam Zampa in the World Cup squad has reached fever pitch after his strong series in India but the legspinner feels his place is far from assured.

The 26-year-old from Shellharbour, New South Wales, played a key role in the series comeback victory over Virat Kohli’s side, taking 11 wickets at an average of 25.81 to outduel India’s spinners on their own pitches and claim second on the wicket-taking list behind seamer Pat Cummins.

It was a far cry from Zampa’s first tour of India in 2017 when hard-hitting India all-rounder Hardik Pandya took to him with a gusto and declared he could “hit a six off him anytime”.

“Throughout my short career I’ve found it can change really quickly,” Zampa told reporters ahead of Australia’s first training session in Sharjah ahead of the ODI series against Pakistan.

“I started my career really well, but I’ve had some ups and downs.

“So (I’m) trying to build on the momentum I have would be great — I know what it’s like to be in and out of the team and be dropped from the squad altogether.

“(I’m) just trying to make the most of my position at the moment ... I guess taking it one series at a time — it’s a bit of a cliché, but that’s how it is.”

Australia won the 2015 World Cup on home soil without a specialist slow bowler but wrist-spinners have become a must-have in 50-over cricket and occupy half of the top-10 bowlers in the ICC world rankings for the format.

Zampa, who relies less on sharp turn and drift and more on attacking the stumps with deliveries that skid off the pitch, bowled well in tandem with offspinner Nathan Lyon in India.

The pair are expected to continue their dual spin assault against Pakistan in the five matches in the United Arab Emirates. The first match starts on Friday in Sharjah.

“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and just say we’re going with fast bowlers when spinners in world cricket, and in one-day cricket in particular, are being very, very successful,” selector Trevor Hohns said earlier this week.

Batting team-mate Shaun Marsh felt Zampa had improved “out of sight” in the leadup to the May 30-July 14 World Cup.

“It’s just his control now, he’s a bit more mature,” he said.