Could Khawaja be our first Asian cricket star?
Usman Khawaja has talent, technique, and from all reports, a sound head on his shoulders. He made a mountain of runs in the Sheffield Shield last season, was recently selected for the Australia ‘A’ team, and would appear to be primed for Test cricket.
He also happens to be a Pakistani by birth, and a Muslim – two things not usually associated with Australian cricket, which is better known for producing blonde haired hulks like Jeff Thompson, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, and Shane Watson.
The only cricketer of Asian descent to play for Australia previously was Dav Whatmore, the Sri Lankan born batsman who turned out for the Aussies in seven tests during the late 1970s.
A criticism of mine over the years has been that the Australian cricket team has never represented the true multi-cultural makeup of Australia in the way that sports like rugby league and union, soccer, and AFL have.
For whatever reason, people with Sub Continental Asian backgrounds have never really broken through at the highest level of Australian cricket consistently, compared to in England and New Zealand, where numerous Asian cricketers have made it to the top .
There have been whispers of racism in Australian cricket, whilst others say the pressure to focus on study causes promising young Asian cricketers to abandon the game in their late teens.
Either way, it’s a concern.
A Cricket Australia official was asked last year about the lack of multiculturalism in the Australian team, to which he replied that they had Simon Katich (Serbian father), and Jason Krejza (Slovakian father, Polish mother).
It was hardly an emphatic response to the question asked.
Khawaja being on the fringe of playing for the national team represents a fantastic opportunity for Australian cricket to alter its image, and to truly represent the multi-cultural society that Australia has become.
Of course, Khawaja is solely focussed on his cricket, and doesn’t want a big deal made out of his racial background.
However, I see hundreds of young kids of Asian descent playing in Sydney’s parks every Saturday during Summer, and I have always wished they had someone in the Australian team who could truly inspire them to believe that they too can one day pull on the baggy green cap. Usman Khawaja could be that man.
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