His ethnic roots notwithstanding Pakistan-born Usman tells MiD DAY that he is 'one hundred per cent Australian'
Usman Khawaja's birthday fell on Sunday -- just a day prior to his hero Ricky Ponting. Khawaja, who earlier this year became the first Muslim and Pakistani-born player to wear the Baggy Green, represents the New Australia -- that believes in unifying through diversity.
Pakistan-born Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja. Pic/AFP
It's a safe bet. In about two decades, the Australian cricket team would be represented by plenty of Indians, Chinese, Indonesians and Pakistanis. Today, Australia's population of about 20 million is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. Khawaja is only the seventh foreign-born cricketer to play Test cricket for Australia in the last 80 years, but those numbers will rise.
That was demonstrated by a kids' cricket match below the ACT Press Box here at the Manuka Oval yesterday. A Chinese boy was facing up to an Australian who tried to imitate Shane Warne's action. An Indian was fielding at short leg, and a kid who can pass off as Arabic, fielding at short mid-on.
Khawaja is the flag bearer of this change. He is aware of this responsibility, but just wants to focus on his batting. When asked if he wished his idol on his birthday yesterday, Khawaja said: "Actually I haven't done that. But do you know that my birthday was yesterday? I just slept all day, didn't do anything to celebrate. This game (against India) is crucial for me before Boxing Day."
The strong Indian contingent at the ground chased him for autographs when rain stopped play during the second warm-up tie between India and CA Chairman's XI yesterday. Perhaps it was his Pakistani race that gave them little more reason to connect with the gritty southpaw. "I have never thought about it that way (the fact that I am the first Asian/Pakistani to play for Australia). At the moment, all I am bothered about it is scoring heaps of runs for Australia," he told MiD DAY.
Khawaja, who has received the backing of coach Mickey Arthur to bat at No 3 in the first Test against India, was reminded that him facing India next week would give the media enough incentive to build an 'Indo-Pak' rivalry. He smiled, and said, "I am one hundred per cent Australian, mate."