Queensland coach Darren Lehmann has declared Usman Khawaja the man to replace retiring great Ricky Ponting, saying the 25-year-old is better equipped for Test cricket after 12 months out of the Australian line-up.
Khawaja has made the most of his off-season move from New South Wales to Queensland, scoring 438 runs for his new State in six first-class appearances to be third on the domestic runs list behind Phil Hughes and Callum Ferguson.
The elegant left-hander has failed to fire in the Bulls' Bupa Sheffield Shield clash against his former State, scoring a duck and eight and being trapped lbw by Doug Bollinger in both innings.
But Lehmann has no doubt Khawaja, who scored 263 runs at 29 in six Tests, would do the job for his country if selected for the series opener against Sri Lanka in Hobart from December 14.
"I think he's in the best six in the country," Lehmann said on Thursday.
"But that's my personal opinion, I'm not a selector. I think if they gave him a chance and let him have a good run at it he'd be fine, but again that's the selectors' call.
"I'm pretty confident in the way he's playing. Obviously he's missed out here but he got a decent ball first innings against Doug and probably misjudged it today but he's in good form."
Asked what specific changes he has tried to implement in Khawaja's game since his off-season move to Brisbane, Lehmann replied: "(The changes were) probably more mentally with him and a few little fine tweaks but not too much.
"He's got all the shots and all the game to see him to the next level. It's more about his approach to the game more than anything.
"He's been really good and he's slotted in really well. Obviously it's difficult coming from one State to another but he's been fantastic ... he listens and wants to learn."
Lehmann also threw up Hughes, Tasmania's Alex Doolan and Victoria's Rob Quiney as possible contenders to fill Ponting's sizeable shoes.
"Someone's going to have to stand up and help out," he said.
"It gives the young guys a chance around the traps to stamp their claims."
Meanwhile, Lehmann praised his former team-mates contribution to Australian cricket.
"He's had a magnificent career and has been a great player, one of our greatest, so hopefully he goes out with a bang in Perth and gets a hundred," he said.
"The good thing is he's going to come back and help Hobart Hurricanes and Tasmania out for the rest of the year so that's a good experience for not only their side but the players who play against him to see how he goes about it.
"I hope he enjoys the rest of the international player that's there and then the rest of the year."
First Posted 29 November, 2012 6:02PM AEST