Usman Khawaja became the first Muslim cricketer to play for Australia at the highest level after he made his Test debut during Ashes 2011. His achievements inspired several others from the community to take up cricket as a profession.
However, Usman Khawaja’s journey to the top wasn’t the easiest. He revealed that he did face racism during his early days and was even told that he would never make it to the national team.
“When I was younger in Australia, the amount of time I got told I was never going to play for Australia, I’m not the right skin colour was immense. I’d get told I don’t fit the team, and they wouldn’t pick me. That was the mentality, but now it’s starting to shift,” he told ESPNCricinfo.
“When I started being more involved in cricket, people with subcontinent heritage in Australia came up to me and said, ‘we’re so happy to see you at the top. Seeing someone like you, we feel we’ve got a part in the Australian team, and we support the Australian team. We didn’t do it before, and we do it now,” he added.
Usman Khawaja, who came to Australia in the 1990s, admitted that he didn’t support Australia (in cricket) in the beginning as he didn’t quite connect with the team back then. It took him some time to adapt to the life Down Under.
“And that kept happening over and over and over again. The more that happened, I realised my background does matter, and it does make a difference. And then I realised from my childhood it probably took me a while to support Australia. I didn’t really support Australia when I first went [from Pakistan] because I didn’t really get it,” he stated.
So far, the Islamabad-born batsman has played 44 Test, 40 ODI and 9 T20I matches for Australia.