In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald today Friday 13 January 2023, Australian cricket team’s opening batsman, Usman Khawaja, a Muslim of Pakistani origin who recently scored 195 not out against South Africa at SCG, but was denied the chance to post a double century, has frankly opened up about Australian crickets race problem while growing up.

“When I looked at the TV, I saw these really brash, really stubborn, beer-drinking white Australians that were the same kind of guys racially vilifying me while I was playing cricket,” Khawaja said.

The author of the article Osman Faruqi, culture news editor for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, himself of Pakistani ancestry claims, “The frustration Khawaja and others, including me, felt wasn’t with the individual cricketers who play for Australia, instead, the tension was with white Australia itself and the way it marginalised and belittled those from diverse backgrounds.”

He further writes, “It’s one of the sad ironies of cricket in Australia: Australians from South Asian backgrounds (from countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) are one of the country’s largest migrant blocs and are cricket obsessed, yet often regard the team of their adopted country with indifference or even antipathy.”

“I found that really hard growing up, and I think that bit of resentment still sticks with a lot of young kids, particularly from ethnic backgrounds, that always get called names and racially vilified. ‘Curry muncher’ is the one that sticks out to me the most. I used to get called that all the time,” Khawaja said during the interview.

Faruqi further adds, “Nasser Hussain, the son of an Indian Muslim, played his first Test match for England in 1990, and was appointed captain in 1999. It took another 12 years before Australia appointed its first, and still only, Muslim player: Usman Khawaja. Only two Indigenous men have ever played Test cricket for Australia: Jason Gillespie and Scott Boland. More than 460 men have played Test cricket for Australia, just a touch under 99 percent of them have been white.”

Earlier this month, Khawaja scored a career high of 195 runs against South Africa at the SCG.
Khawaja points out, “You see cricketers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, everywhere at a young level. But as you get up at a high-performance level, it just drops exponentially. It just drops, drops, drops.

“That’s where I’m trying to work with Cricket Australia saying, ‘Look, guys … you invest a lot of money into this, but something’s not going right.’ You’ve been doing it for 10 years and nothing’s changed.”

“At that high-performance level, you don’t realise it but a lot of the coaches [and] selectors are white, there’s subconscious bias. If you have two cricketers, one brown, one white, both the same, the white coach is going to pick the white cricketer just because he has a son that might look similar to him. It’s what’s familiar to him.”

Faruqi concludes, “Whether it’s on-screen, on social media, or in conversations with his teammates and coaches, expect Usman Khawaja to keep talking about the changes needed in Australian cricket.”