He started last summer as Australia’s best batsman in the absence of suspended duo Steve Smith and David Warner but instead of stepping up his career has tumbled into freefall.
Since his game-saving century in Dubai last year, Khawaja has averaged 27 in 10 Tests and he has managed only 102 runs at 17 in his four first-class appearances this summer.
Khawaja could have revived his hopes for Australia A but made just six in the first innings when spots were up for grabs.
Not for the first time in his controversial career, Bancroft secured his place at the 11th hour with scratchy 49, which further highlights the shallow depth in Australia’s batting ranks.
Hohns defended Bancroft’s promotion, saying his improvement since his axing in the Ashes had been “quite noticeable”. The West Australian has made 106 runs at less than 18 in the first-class arena this campaign.
State sources have raised eyebrows over the move, with some believing it devalues the worth of Sheffield Shield form, which has traditionally been the basis for higher honours.
Hohns said Bancroft was picked to provide cover at the top and in the middle order. Bancroft has never batted lower than three for Western Australia in the Shield but has played in the middle order in the one-day formats.
Bancroft was dropped after the second Ashes Test, leaving him with an average of 26 from 10 games.
“There’s no doubting that he has the ingredients to be a very good Test player, he just has to put the performances on the board when he’s given that opportunity,” Hohns said.
“Everything else about him is the sort of thing that Justin Langer and the selection panel want from a player.
“He’s a hard worker, he was left out of course in England after a couple of Test matches. He’s had the bit between the teeth, he’s worked very, very hard on his game and the improvement in his game is quite noticeable.”
Incumbent opener Marcus Harris was dumped despite a Shield average of 53 with Queenslander Joe Burns getting the nod to partner David Warner at the top of the order.
“I’m at the point in my career I’ve got so much experience behind me,” Burns said.
“I’m just in a spot where I’m looking forward to playing Test match cricket and showing the world what I can do.
“I just feel like I’ve got the game to do it … I can’t wait.”
Harris, who had a horror Ashes series, may have paid a price for his middling Shield record away from the batsman-friendly tracks of the MCG and Junction Oval. Since moving to Victoria, he averages 36.62 on the road compared to 69 at home.
Ashes tourist Michael Neser was picked in another squad but is a longshot to make his debut ahead of star quartet Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.
Australia Test squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Cameron Bancroft.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald