Khawaja must oust Smith or Warner to earn Aussie recall: Langer
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The 33-year-old, Australia's senior batsman while Smith and Warner served one-year bans for ball-tampering from 2018-19, was left out of the squad which leaves for England on Sunday.
Skipper Aaron Finch is a certain starter alongside opening partner Warner, with Smith locked in at number three followed by emerging star Marnus Labuschagne, who enjoyed a prolific year with the bat before the coronavirus shutdown.
"The way we are going to set up our game plan at the moment is Uzzie is competing with David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith at the top of the order," Langer told reporters.
"And at the moment our view is that those guys are getting the nod ahead of him... and that's why he missed out.
"Marnus is a bit different, he's batting number four. But he got a hundred in his last game and has had an incredible 12 months."
All-rounder D'Arcy Short was also overlooked, with Langer admitting it was a straight pick between him and Glenn Maxwell, who is returning after a break to deal with mental health issues.
"Maxwell has taken D'Arcy's spot mainly because we feel more confident getting overs out of Maxwell at the moment than we do out of Shorty in the middle overs," he said.
"But it just goes to show what depth we've got when we're leaving Usman, D'Arcy and guys like Travis Head at home."
The England tour, where Australia are due to play three Twenty20s and three one-day internationals next month in bio-secure venues, will be their first cricket since the coronavirus pandemic halted play in March.
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The men's team depart on Sunday for a limited-overs tour of England, their first cricket since March, kicking off what is likely to be a testing period.
With the coronavirus still gripping England, they will play in bio-secure hubs with their movements and contacts strictly limited.
On their return to Australia, the team will go into a 14-day quarantine, with the prospect of further biosecurity bubbles a real possibility through the home summer when they are due to host India and Afghanistan.
With border closures and coronavirus-related restrictions in Australia, and coronavirus still at large, Langer said challenges were inevitable -- and he told his team to follow the lead of "Men In Black" star Smith.
"We might not be able to see our families because we need to keep the show on the road," Langer said in a Zoom call.
"Some of our best players might have to miss some international cricket, so they can spend some time seeing families.
"It's so complicated... we are going to need our depth," he added, and cited a comment from a Smith interview.
"The old Will Smith saying: 'we've got to stay ready so we don't have to get ready'. Wherever it comes up, we'll be ready."
Australia are taking a 21-man squad to England, bigger than usual, for added flexibility as there is no chance of extra players being called into the bubble if injuries strike.
It could be similar during the blockbuster series against India with large squads in isolation, meaning fewer players are available for domestic cricket like the Big Bash League and Sheffield Shield.
"If we've got to have bigger squads because we can't have guys come in and out like the 13th or 12th man who goes off and plays Shield cricket... there's a compromise."
Venues for the summer Test series are yet to be locked in.
Melbourne is currently the worst-affected city in Australia by COVID-19, putting the Boxing Day Test there under threat.
Reports have suggested Adelaide is the frontrunner to host the December 26-30 clash if Melbourne cannot, although Sydney has also said it is keen.
Adelaide and Perth have been floated as possibilities for hosting multiple summer Tests, as both cities have largely escaped the pandemic and have hotels adjacent to their grounds.
"What's so crucial is that we get the men's internationals up and running, we get the Big Bash up and running, some of the women's internationals and women's Big Bash up and running," said Langer. "They are crucial for the health of our game."