Smith justifies Marsh ahead of Khawaja


Australia captain Steve Smith has defended the decision to pick Shaun Marsh ahead of Usman Khawaja for the first ODI against New Zealand, saying Marsh deserved the chance to keep his place.

With Aaron Finch ruled out with an injury, Khawaja, Australia's most in-form batsman, was called into the squad. But given he has not played an ODI in three years, Marsh was tasked with opening the batting alongside David Warner.

Khawaja's continued omission from the ODI side has ruffled feathers, given his massive scoring rate in recent months, but Smith says Marsh has done nothing to deserve being dropped, and that the ODI side is a tough one to break into.

The skipper said on the CA website: "Shaun has been in the squad, he played well in Australia, and I think he deserves the first opportunity so he is going to get that out here tomorrow.

"The (Australia) one-day side's a tough side to break into. We're the current world champions, we're playing some very good one-day cricket.

"The batters have been scoring lots of runs, we've scored 300 on every occasion in the recent one-day series at home."

Of Khawaja, Smith added: "No doubt he'd be frustrated. I think he will play one of the games (in New Zealand) at least.

"He does need a hit going into what is a big Test series for us (following the ODI matches) and he is batting extremely well, so he is unlucky to miss out.

"But Shaun is going to get the first opportunity as he played well in Australia and he is batting extremely well."

New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum voiced his surprise, and delight, at the decision not to play Khawaja: "I was a bit surprised to be honest.

"He’s been the form batsman of the Australian summer across all forms of the game, he’s in incredible touch.

"(But) the guy replacing him, Shaun Marsh, is a very good player as well.

"Australia have so much depth they can afford to have guys missing, but they'll be replaced by guys who are equally as strong."