Lehmann plays down Khawaja 'scapegoat' issue

Darren Lehmann on Usman Khawaja’s exclusion in Sri Lanka: “Being on the selection panel for the [third] Test match, it was warranted.” © AFP

Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann has said Usman Khawaja is not out of favour with selectors, despite the batsman’s recent comments that he and Joe Burns had been made “scapegoats” on the recent tour of Sri Lanka. Khawaja also labeled the selectors “fickle” for dropping the pair after two Tests in Sri Lanka, given both men were coming off excellent form in the previous few Test series.

Lehmann said that he would have a private conversation with Khawaja concerning his public comments, preferring such matters to stay behind closed doors. However, it remains to be seen whether Khawaja will pay the price for his statements when the squad for the first Test against South Africa is chosen later this week.

“We have the GOAT,” Lehmann told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday, referring to Nathan Lyon’s nickname as the Greatest Of All Time. “And now we have the Scapegoat. I love these nicknames … He is not on the back foot. [But] I will chat to him privately. We would rather have these things played out between selectors and players.”

Khawaja and Burns were axed for the third Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo, although Burns had been Man of the Match in Australia’s last Test before the tour – against New Zealand in Christchurch in February – and Khawaja had made four consecutive first-innings hundreds during the summer. Shaun Marsh and Moises Henriques came in at the expense of Khawaja and Burns.

“Being on the selection panel for the Test match, it was warranted,” Lehmann said. “At the end of the day, there were different conditions and those two guys weren’t playing well enough – they averaged eight or seven in two Test matches.

“We had to change something, but that doesn’t affect the summer at home. We have to work out what we think the best batting line-up is for the summer.”

Khawaja and Burns are in action for Queensland against New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield match that started at the Gabba on Tuesday, although they will have to wait until later in the game to bat as Khawaja won the toss and sent the Blues in. At the WACA, Shaun Marsh, hoping to prove to the selectors that he had recovered from a hamstring injury, was batting early on day one.

And at the MCG, Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird were potentially competing for the final bowling position in Australia’s Test squad, to be announced on Friday – assuming Mitchell Starc proves his fitness at the Gabba. Lehmann said Bird and Siddle both had the chance to bowl themselves into the side for the first Test against South Africa at the WACA.

“They certainly can over the next few days I would think,” Lehmann said. “[Siddle] looked really good in the Matador Cup and by all reports he’s got some zing and zip back. He’s playing the Shield game so hopefully he’ll perform well and pull up well, and then we’ll see what we do.

“His record is exceptional – he bowls good line and length and can complement Mitchell, but so can Jackson Bird.”

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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