In-form batsman Usman Khawaja should be part of Australia’s World Cup plans despite the imminent returns of Steve Smith and David Warner, former captain Ricky Ponting has said. Khawaja struck 383 runs, including two centuries, in Australia’s 3-2 series win over India earlier this month and Ponting is of the view that the left-hander opener had earned his place at the World Cup. “I think we all saw over the last few weeks just how skillful a player Usman Khawaja is… and I think when you see him play like that it just makes you wonder why he doesn’t do it a bit more regularly,” Ponting told reporters on Wednesday. “I would be surprised if Khawaja wasn’t in the (World Cup) squad. Khawaja could probably slot down at three when Warner comes in and Steve Smith might bat at four or five or something just to shore up those middle overs.” Smith and Warner were suspended for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year and are set to be reintegrated into the team ahead of the May 30-July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

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