Khawaja’s early exit may give Guptill more opportunity

Usman Khawaja is to cut short his spell as Derbyshire’s overseas player after being selected by Australia A for their tour to Zimbabwe.

Even though he is only in their four-day squad and so may not play until their one scheduled four-day game of the tour, against a Zimbabwe XI from July 21-24, the 24-year-old left-hander has been told to report for a training camp on June 6.

That means his last game for the county will be the LV County Championship match against Kent at Canterbury, from May 24 until May 27. Khawaja had been due to stay with Derbyshire until the end of their Friends Life Twenty20 group matches in mid-July.

The premature recall is another illustration of the perils of signing current international players for county cricket but there may be some consolation for Derbyshire.

New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill, signed in the winter to play alongside Khawaja for the county in the Twenty20s and then stay for the second half of the campaign, could make an earlier debut than anticipated at the weekend.

The 24-year-old right-hander is set to arrive in England from New Zealand on Friday and, as long as he is not jaded from the flight and Derbyshire can resolve the registration issues with the England and Wales Cricket Board, there is a chance he could play in the Championship match at home to Surrey, which starts on May 29.

“I will be on the phone to Martin as soon as I can to make him aware of the situation and see how he feels about that,” said Karl Krikken, who has taken over head of cricket duties following the departure of John Morris.

“It is a long flight so we won’t really know how he is until he gets here but if there is a chance he could play against Surrey, that would be great.

“It is frustrating to lose Usman at such short notice but that’s the way it goes. He’s an ambitious lad who wants to play for his country and has to do what he’s told.

“We will be sorry to see him go. He hasn’t scored the volume of runs he would have wanted but he’s got an old head on young shoulders and he’s been good in the dressing room.”

Khawaja, who made his Test debut for Australia in the final match of last winter’s Ashes series in Sydney, has not made a great impact in his first taste of county cricket and has averaged only 24.66 in six Championship innings. His only innings of high quality was a match-winning unbeaten 89 in a Clydesdale Bank 40 League game at Worcester.

Derbyshire may not look to make another short-term signing to cover for the loss of Khawaja to their Twenty20 squad. “We are looking into it as a possibility and we certainly haven’t ruled out a replacement,” added Krikken.

“But we feel we have got a decent squad already and if we brought in someone else, one of our batsmen would have to drop out. We’re not ruling out one option or another but, at the moment, it looks more likely we will stick with the one overseas player.”

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