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Australia captain Steve Smith has hinted that batsman Usman Khawaja and all-rounder Ashton Agar could make their Test comebacks in the upcoming two-Test series against Bangladesh.
Khawaja was snubbed in favour of Shaun Marsh during Australia last Test assignment, which was a four-Test series in India.
Khawaja did not feature in any of the matches, while Marsh endured a tough time as he mustered 151 runs at an average of 18.87.
While Khawaja has excelled when playing on home soil, the same cannot be said about his performances in Asia.
In 15 first-class innings in the continent, the 30-year-old has only gone past the 50-run mark on one occasion, which occurred during a tour game in Colombo in 2011, where he scored an unbeaten 101.
Given that Australia will host England in a highly-anticipated Ashes series later this year, Smith admitted that the Bangladesh Test series will provide Khawaja with a perfect platform to score some runs and boost his confidence.
“I think Usman’s going to be a really big player for us this summer,” Smith told reporters prior to Australia flying out to Bangladesh. “He’s done incredibly well in Australia over the last couple of years. He hasn’t played any cricket [since January], so he’s chomping at the bit to get out there and I dare say he’ll get his opportunity.”
As for Agar, he has only represented Australia in two Test matches to date, with the most recent one coming against England in the 2013 Ashes series.
Nathan Lyon remains Australia’s go-to spinner, but Smith admitted that Agar is likely to be chosen as the team’s second spinner ahead of Mitchell Swepson, who has yet to make his Test debut.
“I’d say so, at this point,” Smith said. “He’s improved a lot in the last couple of years. He bowled really well up here this week. He’s probably going to get his opportunity first up, if that’s the way we go.
“For me with Ashton it’s when he’s consistent and hitting a good length, he’s going to be dangerous. I think that’s the key to bowling spin, particularly in the subcontinent. I think he’s gained a lot of confidence in the last couple of years.
“He understands what he’s trying to do now a lot more. If he can keep being consistent and hitting good lengths, I’m sure he’s going to be a big player for us on this tour and in the future as well.”
Smith added that Agar could potentially bat in the top six as he has two first-class centuries to his name.
“I think he’s a real talent,” Smith said. “We’ve seen him play some really good innings – obviously his debut, where he scored 98, was quite phenomenal at number 11. He’s got a lot of potential with the bat and he’s a great fieldsman as well. He’s a good package and an exciting player for the future.”
While Australia will be expected to beat Bangladesh, Smith pointed out that his side cannot afford to be overconfident as this will be their first Test tour of the country since 2006.
“They’re a very good side in their own conditions and they’re going to be very challenging,” he said. “It will be great for us to get some game time there and play in those conditions, and see what we’ve learnt from India. Hopefully the guys have learnt a lot, and we’re able to take that into this tour and have a really successful one.”
The first Test between Bangladesh and Australia begins on August 27 in Mirpur.