Sydney - Australia
batsman Usman Khawaja has revealed he was racially abused so much
growing up that he refused to support the national side, and claimed
"racism" once played a role in selections for the team.
The 30-year-old, who immigrated as a child, battled the odds to
become Australia's first Pakistan-born national player and is now
established as one of the country's leading Test batsmen.
But it wasn't an easy journey, and Khawaja wrote on the
playersvoice.com.au website that he was vilified over his race from a
young age, making him resent Australian sporting teams.
"Getting sledged by opposition players and their parents was the
norm. Some of them said it just quietly enough for only me to hear," he
wrote on the website, where sportspeople can air their views.
"It still hurt, but I would never show it. Most of the time it was when I scored runs.
"It is for this reason why so many of my friends, most of whom were
born outside Australia, didn't support Australia in sporting contests. I
The abuse ultimately made him stronger, but Khawaja said it was an intimidating environment to play the game he loved.
He said he was brought up to be humble and polite "but when I watched
the Aussie team, I saw men who were hard-nosed, confident, almost
"The same type of men who would sledge me about my heritage growing up," he added.
As he got older, he said Australia also grew up and "I started to
understand that the minority of Australians who did treat me this way
were just that, a minority".
"By high school I was a diehard Australian team supporter. But, from a pathways perspective, the damage had been done.
"Not to me, but to some of the other immigrant kids who potentially
could have gone on to play for Australia. They chose not to pursue a
dream because of the negative experiences they had endured."
At one point Khawaja was the only Asian first-class player in Australia, something he attributed to his strong-willed family.
"It's no surprise it has taken Australia cricket so long for coloured players to come through the system," he said.
"There is no doubt racism and politics played a large role in selections in the past.
"I've heard a few stories from past Anglo-Saxon players where this
seems to be the case. It would just be the times that they lived in."
Khawaja said Australian cricket and society has come a long way and
it is now easier for cricketers from all backgrounds to come through the
But he is reluctant to take any credit for opening doors.
"Maybe it was inevitable with the growing multicultural community in
Australia. Maybe it was a few friendly faces at the highest level. We
will never know," he said.