SYDNEY, Sep 15: Left-handed batsman Usman Khawaja has joined compatriot Dan Christian in calling out the ongoing racism issues that exist in Australian cricket.
Khawaja was born in Pakistan but moved to Australia with his family when he was five. The 33-year-old cricketer has been a key cog in Australia’s top-order, having played 93 internationals since his debut in the longest format of the game in January 2011. The left-handed batsman revealed that he feels the perception of him as a “lazy” cricketer has been there because of his ethnicity.
“I always had that ‘lazy’ undertone when I was growing up and I think part of that was my relaxed nature but part of it was also because I was Pakistani, and subcontinent people were seen as lazy, not doing the hard yards and whatnot,” cricketc.com.au quoted Khawaja as saying.
“Running has never been natural to me, so when we used to do lots of fitness testing, I wasn’t as good as everyone else. When you put that against where I was from, that did play against me. I like to think we’re starting to move on from that, but there’s definitely still that undertone … I still hear (similar stereotypes) if someone’s a bit different,” he added.
Khawaja, who has 10 international centuries under his belt, is set to join Cricket Australia (CA) working group tasked with creating an action plan focusing on inclusion and greater cultural diversity within Australian cricket.
“The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realised that when it comes to diversity — especially in cricket in general — I think we’ve been OK at it but we’re still just not quite there,” Khawaja opined.
“If you look at the landscape in terms of multicultural cricketers around, we’ve got a few subcontinental cricketers — myself, Gurinder (Sandhu), Arjun Nair, Jason Sangha and Tanveer Sangha coming up through the ranks … (but) we’ve still got a long way to go,” he added.
Khawaja wishes that Australian cricket produces more role models who can be looked upon by the children from different ethnic backgrounds.
“When you come from a subcontinental family — all of Asia, really — studying is very important. My mum wanted me to stop playing cricket and study, and that happens a lot to guys my age coming through the ranks,” he said.
“Generally with the subcontinent community I know how important that is to mums and dads, so we need to emphasise that, especially with technology these days and studying from distance, there’s no reason why you can’t do both, so long as you have the discipline and you’re prepared to make a lot of sacrifices along the way, Khawaja added.
“Kids need to be given support, we need to talk openly and let them know that, ‘Hey, you’re not the only person going through this, we’ve been through this, we’ve seen this, we’ve dealt with it and we’ve pushed on. You can do the same thing,” he further said.
Last week, Cricket Australia had launched an investigation after it was revealed that Christian was exposed to racist remarks when he spoke about the casual racism he has experienced in Australian cricket.
“There’s also the issue of people getting disheartened if they get racially vilified when they’re coming up through the ranks. The amount of times I heard, ‘They won’t pick you’, ‘You won’t fit in’ – if enough people keep saying that to you, you might start actually believing it,” he further explained.