‘Was told I’m not the right skin colour to play for Australia’: Usman Khawaja on facing racism

Usman Khawaja, who moved to Australia with his family when he was five years old, said he was told many times in earlier years that he could never fit into the Australia team.

Veteran cricketer Usman Khawaja has revealed how he faced racism in Australia in earlier days.

“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.

The 34-year-old Khawaja made his international debut in a 2011 Ashes Test, becoming the first Muslim cricketer to represent Australia. He has played 44 Tests for Australia.

Khawaja, who was born in Islamabad, moved to Australia with his family when he was five years old. He said he did not initially feel any support for the Australian cricket team, but that he grew into it more and more.

“When I started being more involved in cricket, people with subcontinent heritage in Australia came up to me and said, ‘We’re so happy to see you at the top. Seeing someone like you, we feel we’ve got a part in the Australian team, and we support the Australian team. We didn’t do it before, and we do it now’,” said Khawaja.

“And that kept happening over and over and over again. The more that happened, I realised my background does matter, and it does make a difference. And then I realised from my childhood it probably took me a while to support Australia. I didn’t really support Australia when I first went [from Pakistan] because I didn’t really get it,” he added.

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