Having scored 957 runs this summer and strong performance against New Zealand during the last two games, Usman Khawaja seems to have finally cemented his position in the Australian cricket team in all the three formats of the game namely the traditional test matches, the one dayers and now the T20 internationals.
He is now included in the 15 man Australian World Twenty20 squad to play in India from 8 March to 3 April. With his great admirer Mark Waugh being appointed as the selector on duty for the tournament, there is a good chance that Khawaja will make it to the Australian XI opening the batting with David Warner.
His run scores in the last 12 innings have been 174, 9 (not out), 121, 109 (not out), 144, 56, 62, 104 (not out), 70, 14, 50 and 44 a total of 957 runs this summer.
Khawaja was initially left out of the starting 11s for the three-game T20 series against India and the one-day matches on the tour of New Zealand. He is now included in the one day squad playing New Zealand.
The T20 series was lost mainly on the back of faltering batting. The collapses through the middle overs in successive run chases during the first two matches were terminal against Indian spin.
Khawaja is now considered as one of the hottest batsmen in world cricket in all formats of the game where he has reinvented himself from being a test cricketer to a flexible batman who can adjust to one day as well as to the compressed format of game, T20.
Australian batting hero, Mark Waugh has labelled him as the most in-form player while the legend himself, Ricky Ponting honoured him as the best batsman in Australia.
Khawaja is an Aussie of Pakistani origin, born in Islamabad, Pakistan and emigrated with his family when he was a child. His typical batting technique represents his sub-continental heritage, full or wristy flicks of the bat that has added another dimension to Australia’s batting line-up.
The first Aussie Muslim cricketer to represent Australian national side when he debuted against England in a much heated Ashes series of 2010-11 and as Michael Slater said last year in Gabba, “This is the first century for Australia by a Muslim.”
Khawaja have displayed faith as an integral part of himself, and have been comfortable and not shy in talking about it. At one time Khawaja mentioned using some interesting words being a pilot, “I pray because it keeps me sane and grounded.” However he has not being political or making political statements in relation to the predicament of Muslims in global trouble spots.
Besides being a cricketer, Khawaja is a qualified commercial and instrument rated pilot, completing a bachelor’s degree in Aviation before making his test debut and attaining his basic pilot licence before getting his driving licence.
As once Chief of Cricket Australia mentioned, Khawaja is an inspiration to Australia’s next generation of multi-cultural cricketers and represents the changing face of Australian cricket.
Australian cricket has not been known for its multiculturalism. It’s only been in the last three years, says Cricket Australia’s head of community engagement Sam Almaliki, that participants have been asked questions about their cultural background and disability.
Cricket Australia’s last year launched a diversity education program “A Sport for All” aimed at clubs to encourage inclusion. The $350,000-a-year program includes a 93-page resource guide, of which almost a quarter is devoted to multiculturalism. It teaches clubs about the customs and values of ethnic groups, how to communicate and also advice on attitudes towards food and alcohol.