Australia drop vice-captain Marsh for India clash as Khawaja returns

Sports | 6 Dec 2018

Australia sprang a surprise by axing cricket vice-captain Mitch Marsh for the first Test against India, as Usman Khawaja's return was confirmed despite the shock of his brother's arrest.

Batsmen Travis Head and Peter Handscomb were preferred to the all-rounder, piling more pressure on the bowlers in what are forecast to be scorching conditions, while Marcus Harris will make his debut as opener.

Captain Tim Paine said the omission of Marsh, one of Australia's two vice-skippers along with Josh Hazlewood, was due to a lack of consistency and he would benefit from returning to Sheffield Shield cricket to find form again. Handscomb edged him out after two half-centuries last week and a century for Victoria the week before that.

Khawaja's brother, Arsalan, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly framing a love-rival with a fake terror plot. Back from ankle surgery, Khawaja was not seen in the nets yesterday after his family crisis, although he is known to only take on a light workload the day before a Test. "He's got good support around him. He'll be as cool and calm as usual out on the middle," coach Justin Langer said.

India skipper Virat Kohli played down suggestions Australia are vulnerable after a ball-tampering scandal that led to bans for batting powerhouses Steve Smith and David Warner.

"They still have the skill to dominate at home. We're not taking anything for granted," Kohli said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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