New man of Australian cricket Usman Khawaja represents much more

Source: The Australian

THE first Muslim to wear the baggy green will represent his culture proudly.

That’s the culture that listens to Wolfmother, spends hours on PCs playing Call of Duty and claims Ricky Ponting is a “legend” who could convince him to jump from a bridge.

Meet Usman Tariq Khawaja, 24, born in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and rounded off in the outer suburbs of Sydney.

He’s funny, friendly, a qualified pilot, good on the back foot, strong outside off stump and so obviously talented that state captain Simon Katich guarantees he “has a long Test career in front of him”.

Khawaja has been brought into the side for the Sydney match to replace the injured Ponting.

He was at his family home yesterday when a Cricket Australia representative rang to tell him he was in the squad.

Khawaja said it didn’t change his day much. He hung up the phone, switched off the PC and went out and told his father, Tariq, an information technology professional from Islamabad.

“My dad is a man of few emotions so he showed as much as he could,” Khawaja said.

Khawaja is an observant Muslim and proud of his heritage, but says he has never felt any different to his teammates. When asked about being the first person of his birthplace and religion to wear the baggy green he was surprised. “That’s the first time I have thought about it all day,” he said. “Ever since I can remember I wanted to play for Australia and that dream was a long way away when I was younger and it’s a lot closer now.”

Katich says that the young batsman, who is the leading run-scorer in Shield cricket this year, is a delight to have around the team. “He is probably the most popular bloke in our (NSW) squad and I am pretty sure a lot of the young blokes will back me up on that,” he said. “He doesn’t drink but the boys don’t hold that against him. He will still go out with the boys, socialise, and then he drives them home – he’s their taxi. He has a great sense of humour, too.”

Khawaja sat by Michael Clarke at a press conference yesterday. The acting captain was sombre and thoughtful, the new batsman lively and entertaining.

Asked where he would like to bat, he replied: “I’ll take anywhere in the top 11, to be honest.”

Cricket as a means of liberation – by Peter Roebuck

Source: The Hindu, 1 Jan 2011

Decades ago it was said of Neville Cardus that he “changed the course of the writing of cricket. He showed what could be done. He dignified and illuminated the task.”

Cardus’s ability to combine music and cricket, his insights into character, his images and asides, the sheer quality of his prose, altered the way people thought about the game.

Ever since cricket writing has been regarded as a skill in its own right, and not a mere adjunct to the game. Inevitably tone and temper have shifted.

Cardus could compose his copy at the dinner table, completing his comments over port and sending them to his employers via a runner. It was all extremely civilised.

Suffice it to say the demands are more immediate these days. Writers are constantly called upon to update websites and check the latest tweets kindly offered by players.

As the game has changed, so has the coverage. Not so long ago English wordsmiths were regarded as first amongst equals. Upon reaching India they’d be asked their opinions on all matters and next day their sacred words would appear in the newspapers. Now India produces its own writers, stands its own ground.

Accept responsibility

But the current generation must accept a responsibility ignored by the ancients. The task is nothing less than to demonstrate that cricket is not a separate activity but part and parcel of the wider world. It is to confirm that sport, and cricket in particular, is not a recreation to be patronised, not a distraction, but a means of liberation.

Romanticism served its purpose, showed that cricket is at once a game of skill and potential beauty and also a human drama. It has a significance and power beyond the ken of self-proclaimed intellectuals. The game is worthy of intelligent attention and wide dissemination. What do they know of cricket who only cricket know? What do they know of politics that only politics know?

Consider the current Test series taking place in Africa and Australia. Usman Khawaja is set to become the first Muslim to play cricket for his country. Of course it is a great day for the player but it’s also a breakthrough for cricket and his country.

Australia tends to get a bad press. It’s noisy but not necessarily disreputable.

Four years ago fears were held that Monty Panesar might be barracked by locals. Instead he became a folk hero. People just took to him. Still the cricket side has remained lily white. Meanwhile tensions periodically arise between hot-headed advocates of different faiths. Then along came Khawaja.

Time to celebrate

Some locals insist that the newcomer’s faith is irrelevant and ought not to be mentioned. After 140 years a Muslim plays for Australia and it does not matter? To the contrary it is a cause for celebration, a step towards enlightenment

It’s the same in Africa. India’s victory in the second Test was superb but not half as important as the make up of the home side. Three of the batsmen could not have voted, let alone represented their country, under previous dispensations. It is another step towards the accomplishment of Martin Luther King’s dream. And cricket scribes are supposed to discuss the no-ball rule?

Far from avoiding these matters in the old way — with some honourable exceptions, commentators did not say much about whites captaining the West Indies — cricket ought to embrace them.

Only ten nations play the game to the highest level. They include black, brown and white, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian, and much else besides. It is a challenge, but also an opportunity, and not to be ducked in deed or word.


Usman Khawaja is belting out runs and tunes
– by Andrew Webster Herald Sun

Source: Daily Telegraph, Australia January 01, 2011

EVEN at airports, Usman Khawaja, who will make his Test debut for Auatralia, is grabbing people’s attention.

USMAN Khawaja knows they’re coming for him, but he has them all fooled.

Not England’s bowlers, but security guards at airport screening checkpoints – the ones who collar passengers for random explosives test at the precise moment they’re rushing to the departure gate.

Call it coincidence, but they always seem to pick on Khawaja.

“I reckon my average is about 50-50 this year,” he said with a grin.

“I have a good technique where I get off the carousel and, if they’re not pre-occupied or with someone, I will fluff around in my bag until they are.”

He wasn’t so lucky with security guards at the WACA Ground in Perth this year, however, after injury ruled him out of a one-dayer between New South Wales and Western Australia.

“The first security guard, I had to convince him I played for NSW,” he said. “Somehow I got through. I got to the second gate and I had to convince that guy, too. I just got to the changerooms and the security guard said, ‘What are you doing?’ I had to convince three of them.”

All of that is about to change.

When Usman Khawaja, 24, makes his Test debut for Australia in the fifth Ashes Test, starting at the SCG on Monday, he instantly will become one of the most recognisable faces in the country.

For added identification, he can simply start wearing his baggy green through airport security checkpoints.

Much has been made of the fact Khawaja was born in Pakistan and will become the first Muslim to play Test cricket for Australia.

“What? What are you talking about? I’ve never heard that before,” he said, laughing again.

“It’s been floated around for a while. To be honest, it’s not a massive thing. It never comes into my mind.”

The way he looks at it, he is the first Usman Khawaja to wear the baggy green and he just happens to be a Muslim, not the other way around.

While respectful of his faith, he would prefer to make light of the whole matter.

“That’s what I tell the boys,” he said. “That’s what cricket does. You spend so much time with each other. All you can do is take the p— out of each other.”

In truth, the best part of Khawaja’s story does not concern his faith, or even his cricket.

It the white Fender Stratocaster so often found in his hands, the guitar he dragged into the Australian team hotel in Sydney when he joined the squad yesterday.

He started playing about a year ago during a NSW Second XI game, when he picked up a guitar owned by Cricket NSW video analyst Ben Romalis, who has been playing in a band for 16 years.

“I nicked out (was dismissed) early the day before and the next day the boys batted the whole day,” Khawaja said. “So I picked up the guitar in the morning and didn’t let it go for six hours. I learned all my open chords, and from there I was addicted. I’m half decent now. I can play a few tunes.”

Specifically, he loves Guns N’ Roses and went with Australian opener Shane Watson – who’s been playing guitar for five years – to see the American band’s guitarist, Slash, play in Sydney in August.

More recently he has “discovered” Led Zeppelin and learned to play the Jimmy Page guitar solo in Stairway to Heaven.

When Khawaja was on standby for captain Ricky Ponting for the Boxing Day Test, batting coach Justin Langer was horrified to hear the Led Zeppelin song Kashmir playing in the MCG dressingroom.

“It sounds like I’m going to a funeral,” Langer said. “How about something good, like Pink?”

Khawaja found the response hilarious, as he does most things in the team environment.

He has been the life of the NSW team since he was first selected.

“To me, that’s actually a good thing – it means nobody treats me differently and I don’t feel like an outsider,” he said.

“The only one who makes me feel like an outsider is myself, because I’m always taking the p— out of myself.”

To put Khawaja’s self-effacing humour in context, you have to ask him about Team America: World Police, the animated movie that lampoons everything and everyone concerned with America’s war on terror.

“Team America is probably one of my favourite movies of all time,” he said. “I have that whole movie memorised in my head. When I’m around my mates, I’m always doing my little Team America impersonations.

“You have to laugh. You can’t take life too seriously, especially with those types of things.”


آسٹریلوی کرکٹ ٹیم کا پاکستانی نژاد رکن

عثمان خواجہ نیو ساؤتھ ویلز کرکٹ ٹیم کی جانب سے کھیلتے ہیں اور وہ جمعہ کوہونے والے ایک میچ میں وکٹوریا کی ٹیم کے خلاف اوپنگ کریں گے

آسٹریلیا کی کرکٹ ٹیم میں پہلی بار ایک پاکستانی نژاد کھلاڑی کو شامل کیا جا رہا ہے جو ایشز سیریز کے آخری ٹیسٹ میں رکی پونٹنگ کی جگہ لیں گے۔

اٹھارہ دسمبر سنہ انیس سو چھیاسی کو پاکستان کے دارالحکومت اسلام آباد میں پیدا ہونے والے عثمان خواجہ کے والد طارق خواجہ اُس وقت آسٹریلیا منتقل ہوئے جب عثمان صرف چار برس کے تھے۔

آسٹریلیا نے آج تک کسی بھی ایشیائی نژاد شخص کو اپنی ٹیم میں شامل نہیں کیا ہے اور یہ پہلا موقع ہے کہ کوئی آسٹریلوی مسلمان اُن کی ٹیم کا حصہ بننے جا رہا ہے۔

خواجہ عثمان نیو ساؤتھ ویلز کرکٹ ٹیم کی جانب سے کھیلتے ہیں اور وہ جمعہ کو ہونے والے ایک میچ میں وکٹوریا کی ٹیم کے خلاف اوپننگ کریں گے۔یہ میچ اس بات کا فیصلہ کرے گا کہ آیا نیو ساؤتھ ویلز پیورا کپ کی میزبانی کرے گا یا نہیں۔

چوبیس سالہ عثمان خواجہ نے آسٹریلوی ٹیم میں اپنی شمولیت کے بارے میں بتایا ’جب مجھے معلوم ہوا کہ میں آسٹریلوی ٹیم میں شامل کر لیا گیا ہوں تو مجھے یقین نہیں آیا۔‘

عثمان خواجہ نے نیوساؤتھ ویلز کی یونیورسٹی سے ہوا بازی میں بیچلرز کی ڈگری حاصل کی ہے اور وہ آسٹریلیا میں کمرشل پائلٹ کے طور پر کام کرنے کے اہل ہیں۔

میری پہلی ترجیح کرکٹ کھیلنا ہے۔ کرکٹ کے لیے میں نے طویل انتظار کیا ہے اور اِس کے علاوہ میرے دماغ میں کچھ نہیں ہے۔
عثمان خواجہ
لیکن خواجہ عثمان نے پائلٹ بننے کے بجائے کرکٹ کا انتخاب کیا۔ اس بارے میں اُن کا کہنا تھا ’میری پہلی ترجیح کرکٹ کھیلنا ہے۔ کرکٹ کے لیے میں نے طویل انتظار کیا ہے اور اِس کے علاوہ میرے دماغ میں کچھ نہیں ہے‘۔

اپنے کرکٹ کے شوق کے بارے میں ان کا کہنا تھا ’ کرکٹ میرے لیے زندگی کی مانند ہے۔ میں ہر روز کرکٹ کھیلتا ہوں اور پریکٹس بھی کرتا ہوں۔‘

آسٹریلیا کی انیس سال سے کم عمر کھلاڑیوں کی کرکٹ ٹیم کے کوچ برائن میک فیڈن نے خواجہ عثمان کے بارے میں بتایا ’میں خواجہ عثمان کی فرنٹ اور بیک فٹ پر کھیلنے کی صلاحیت سے بہت متاثر ہوا‘۔

انہوں نے بتایا کہ خواجہ عثمان نے پرتھ میں انڈر نائٹین چیمپیئن شپ میں بہترین کرکٹر کا اعزاز جیتا۔

خواجہ عثمان نے اس سال سڈنی کرکٹ گریڈ میں بیٹنگ کرتے ہوئے ساٹھ اعشاریہ سینتالیس کی اوسط سے نو سو سات رنز بنائے۔ اس شاندار کارکردگی کی وجہ سے انہیں اے آئی ایس کرکٹ سینٹر آف ایکسلینس کی جانب سے بلایا گیا تھا۔

Source: BBC Urdu



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