Sydney, June 4 (IANS) Australian batsman Usman Khawaja has said that during his initial years in his adopted country he faced a lot of challenges — from “subtle discouragement” to “downright racism”.
Khwaja’s family had migrated to Australia from Pakistan.
“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,” Khawaja told ESPNcricinfo.com
Khwaja, 34, has so far played 44 Tests and scored nearly 2,900 runs with a highest of 174.
Born in Pakistan, Khawaja’s family moved to Australia when he was a child. He made his debut in a 2011 Ashes Test in Sydney and became the first Muslim cricketer to play for his adopted country.
Khawaja, who has become an advocate for diversity in international cricket, says things are improving gradually and are much better than what they were when he had started playing.
“It is a lot better now. I see a lot more cricketers coming up through state levels in Australia in particular that are from subcontinent backgrounds, which we really did not see when I came up, even when I played. I was playing domestic cricket and I was the only subcontinent player there. At the moment there’s only probably myself and a few others,” he said.
Khwaja, however, said that Australia still had a long way to go, and added that England have had a far better diversity “for a long time”.
“We’re still a long way to go and I look at the England team and see the diversity they’ve had for a long time. They are an older nation than us, but I can see that diversity and think that’s probably where Australia need to reach. We have definitely got better from when I was younger, but it’s a generational shift too.”