Cricket Player Profile: Usman Khawaja, Pakistani born Australian Cricketer, makes Historic Test Selection for Australia’s team
Usman Khawaja is all set to make his debut against Pakistan. If picked in the playing eleven, Usman will be the first Muslim Australian to be part of national side. Born in Islamabad, Pakistan, Khawaja moved to Australia from Pakistan at the age of four, when his father Tariq Khawaja moved to his new homeland. He plays for New South Wales. He along with Ben Hilfenhaus are likely to make debut in first test match of Pakistan-Australia series.
With some strong performance in Sheffield Shield cricket along with unfortunate shoulder injury to Phillip Hughes, it has created an opportunity for left handed Khawaja. National Selection Panel believes that he can bat on any number however; chances are that he will bat in top four if the opportunity arises. He is seen as a dependable batsman with strong footwork. Khawja has represented Australia in Under-19, Australian Institute of sports and New South Wales cricket team. Pakistani born left handed was picked for his superb domestic performance. He scored three centuries in 2009-10 Sheffield Shield cricket.
Khawaja admitted that he was surprised for getting the call from national side. “I was a bit shocked, I had a feeling I was close but that could mean absolutely nothing,” he said. “The feeling didn’t really sink in straight away but I’ve told my family and they’re really excited.” Usman will wear the famous baggy green cap of Australia’s test cricket. Test series against Pakistan will set the tune for Ashes. It will be a litmus test for Usman’s batting. Ideally, he would like to perform and get his dream call of playing in Ashes. Khawaja, as an opening batsman for U-19 was awarded player of Australian U 19 championship.
While announcing Usman’s name in squad, chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said Khawaja is selected for his brilliant performance in domestic cricket. He said: “Usman Khawaja has been selected on the back of some very strong Sheffield Shield performances. He is seen as being capable of batting anywhere in Test cricket, but importantly for this particular series a top-order batsman who could bat in the top four should the opportunity arise.”
Khawaja is also a qualified pilot; he has a bachelor’s degree in Aviation from University of New South Wales. Usman is a good addition to Australian multi cultured society. He made headlines in Australia for being the first Muslim to find place in Aussie line up. Usman said he didn’t feel any different from other players and is happy for the fact that he will be playing for Australia. He said "To be honest it hasn't felt very much different. I'm with the boys all the time and never once do I feel like I'm different, When I first got told I was going to England that (being Australian cricket's first Muslim) didn't even cross my mind. It never does cross my mind until everyone else brings it up.”
Pakistani coach Waqar Younis also praised his performance and technique but warned him not to expect any preferential treatment from Pakistani bowlers. He said his quick bowlers will come hard on him and will try to stop him from making a big score. While praising Usman, the legendary bowler also praised Australia’s domestic structure which supports and prepares new talent for international level. He said Usman is a role model for immigrants living in Australia. "Now Khawaja has broken into the Australian team, I am sure if he performs well it will encourage other Pakistanis living and playing in Australia, because the system there is good for players," Waqar Said.
Khawaja said that he has relatives in Pakistan and hopes that they will support him. He said it doesn’t matter even if he has to carry drinks the whole time.
Dav Whatmore is another subcontinent born player. He was born in Sir Lanka and so far has played seven tests for Australia.