Monday, February 11, 2008

The Pakistani Australian.

I am not talking about my friend and fellow blogger Ujay who, despite being a Pakistani, is an obessessed fan of Australian cricket and probably their biggest supporter in the entire subcontinent.
The Pakistani Australian I am talking about is Usman Khawaja, a 21 year old Pakistani boy from Islamabad. Ever heard of him? Even I hadn't till today.

This upcoming Friday, Usman Khawaja will become the first Muslim to play interstate cricket in Australia when he steps out on to the field for New South Wales against Victoria. Today's Sydney Morning Herald mentions this to be a remarkeable achievement largely due to its timing, which comes close on the heels of race issues in Sydney.

It probably is a significant achievement to be the first Muslim to be playing for one of Australia's 6 major state teams, but I think its a bigger achievement that its a 21 year old Pakistani boy who will be walking out to open the innings for NSW. Whats even more satisfying is that Usman Khawaja is from my home town, Islamabad.

Many Pakistani traditionalists may jump the gun and criticize him for playing in Australia and not coming back to Pakistan to play cricket as they have done to the numerous players playing county cricket in the UK, but I tell you its no easy feat to represent one of the Aussies state teams in their domestic competitions. I think Uncle J will confirm this view. The fact that a young Paki boy has managed to catch the attention of the selectors by being the leading run scorer in Sydney Grade cricket this season is some achievement by Usman Khawaja.

For Usman Khawaja it will probably be the proudest moment of his life on Friday. At the same time there will be thousands of proud Pakistanis around the world supporting him. Some may even be dreaming of his Australia debut, while others of emulating him.

Ujay, I believe you will definitely be the proudest of them all. He's your namesake, he's from your land, and he's on his way to play for Australians! Australia Baby!

Good luck Usman Khawaja.

Make your pitch on this post...

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24 Pitched:

  1. obaid said...

    Wow, great story! I am also from Islamabad and he even shared my name... maybe we are related or something :)

    Anyway, I hope he does well and plays for Pakistan - why should he play for Australia!

  2. Uncle J rod said...

    I heard about this as well, but I have the feeling he may be 12th man for this match though.

    If not he could find himself opening with Jacques, but being a victorian i hope they both make ducks.

    The NSWelsh team is equal first this year, so breaking into that team is a great effort.

    As far as who he plays for I think he should make his own decision, i believe he is as much an aussie as he is a pakistani, and its his decision.

  3. Q said...

    Uncle J, the Sydney Morning Herald article I linked to mentioned that he was named in the XI for this Friday's game. They also mentioned he would open. Lets see.

    And I agree, its his decision who he plays for. If he plays for Pakistan great, but I think if he plays for Australia it will be a great achievement for someone of Paki origin to do so.

    Obaid - his name is a combo of Ujay and yours :-)

  4. Obaid said...

    oh, I was assuming that he lives in Pakistan and has recently been playing in Australia. Does he live in australia? If yes, then its up to him who he plays for

  5. Q said...

    Yep he lives in Austraia..moved here when he was 4. He's 21 now. Read the article i linked to - it talks about his degree in aviation engineering and how he's been top run scorer in u-19 tournaments and junior crcket, etc...

  6. Anonymous said...

    On a different note Q.. How much more talent do you think Islamabad and its environs (excluding Rawalpindi) have? it's a relatively shunned city in Pakistan cricket isn't it? i feel the PCB selectors only focus on talent coming from the main cities of Karachi and Lahore and most players from small towns have to move to be noticed (is rao iftikhar the only boy from the capital?) ! wonder how much potential is being missed out on. anyways best of luck to the young aussie-pakistani lad

  7. Q said...

    Anon - Lahore and Khi cricketers have dominated Pakistan cricket for last 50 years but we've had a few from Peshawar, Islamabad / Pindi, Sialkot, Multan and other smaller towns who have made it big.

    As for Islamabad / Rawal Pindi, in the more recent years players like Shoaib Akhtar, Azhar Mahmood, Yasir Arafat, and Rao Iftikhar have made it to the international side.

    The Pakistan domestic structure only recently changed from being a departmental one to regional one and following Islamabad's performance in the 20-20, ODIs, and 4 day games I haven't seen any promising talent. I'm not sure exactly why that is though but Khi and Lhr seem to produce much better cricketers.

    It could have something to do with infrastructure around the place. Isloo, being the capital is far more developed than Khi and Lhr, which are larger cities but have a dispersed population in terms of income ranges and standards of living. While almost all of the Isoo population is provided with eduation, the same is not true for Khi and Lhr - that could be only 1 of the reasons why even talented crickters from Isloo would choose the education path since its available to them.

    Moving on. Its interestin that the Pentangular this year has a team called Federal Capital Areas which comprises of players from Islamabad, Pindi, and other smaller areas around the capital. Why these players were not included in Punjab is anybody's guess but it could very well be that someone raised a concern similar to yours.

  8. Anonymous said...

    prompt response Q! keep up the good work on this blog.

    i do however disagree with islamabad and education/infrastructure as being one of the reasons. as far as i know karachi and lahore have many fine schools and colleges. plus if talent opted for education rather than cricket.. what about all those fine Aussie and English cricketers coming from well developed cities? or for that matter indian cricketers from bangalore, bombay and delhi? they also had the education path available to them but chose cricket.

    As far as the pentangular is concerned, islamabad is technically not a part of punjab so i dont think it would be included in a punjab team.

  9. Q said...

    Islamabad does fall under Punjab, doesnt it? I dont know my province in Pakistan..oops :-/ I think it does...

    As for the education point of view - in Pak and Ind its a bit different than it is in the West. I didn't mean that there are no good schools and colleges in Khi and Lhr. Let me explain where I was coming from.

    In Pakistan majority of the players coming into the cricket team, I would say close to 95%, are those who have not continued to study beyond 10th grade. Moreover, majority of these come from lower to middle income families. Now there is a high correlation between low income families, education, and representing the Pakistan cricket team - true for Pakistan but not necessarily all cricket nations.

    In Khi and Lhr the population numbers falling in the lower to middle income range are far far higher than those of the same in Islamabad. And majority of the crickteres come from that segment of the population.

    I think I should rite a paper on this topic and claim a PHD in cricket ecomomics of Pakistan from Oxford or somewhere ;-)

  10. Anonymous said...

    thanks for the insight to pakistan's demographics but you still dont make sense to me.

    A complete paper on cricket economics would include a lot on match fixing in the country and the money made from that!!

  11. Q said...

    Yes Anon, there would be a lot abt match fixing in that paper.

    Are u serious, u don't get what I'm saying?

    Do you see the high correlation between representing the Pakistan cricket team and coming from a lower-middle class family?

  12. Anonymous said...

    yes in fact i do. but that has nothing to do with education in pakistan... or the lack of it.

    it is more to do with the pakistani mindset. very few boys would dare to go against their parents wishes of a higher education etc whereas lower middle class families think they have nothing to lose if their sons spend all their time in cricket.

  13. Q said...

    Thats true Anon. If my parents didn't have the means to send me to college or if I had the balls to tell them that i want to pursue cricket then that is the only way I could have gone on to play cricket - then today I would have been playing for Pak if I was good enough or roughing it out for some National Bank of Pakistan side :-)

  14. Jrod said...

    He was supposed to be 12th man, cause he was never going to open before mail and jacques, but nicholoson got sick and he was promoted into the 11 to bat at 6.

    How lucky was he.

  15. Q said...

    That was quite lucky to get a game Uncle J. How did he perform?

  16. Jrod said...

    Stumps on day two, he still hasn't had a bat yet. Interestingly they batted a bits and pieces allrounder at number 6 ahead of him. He should be in by 1105 tomorrow when he will face the great Bryce McGain.

  17. Q said...

    Uncle J I just checked out the scorecard of the game on cricinfo. Hodge did well, as did David Hussey. Whose this fast bowler Cameron?

    Do u think this 'bits and pieces allrounder' Casson was sent in as a nightwatchman ahead of Smith and Khwajah?

    The scorecard has Khwajah slated at 9...

    Either way, he's made his debut and has become the 1st Paki to play interstate cricket in Australia - great achievement I think.

  18. Jrod said...

    Apparently Casson was sent in as nightwatchmen, who needs a night watchman for an opening batsmen who is coming in at 6.

    When they finally let him bat he made 85, and all but stole first innings points off Victoria, but then NSWales lost 3 for 3, including a very well regarded 85 from Usman who was the first of the 3 late wickets to fall when he ran himself out.

    He should't get too ahead of himself, as this is the worst bowling attack the Vics have had all year, but the Vics are still the best domestic team in the world.

    Cameron is about the 6th guy picked as far as fast bowlers go in NSWales. But ahead of him are Lee, Bracken, Clark, Bollinger and Nicholson. I've never seen him bowl, and i hope on this form i never see him bowl against us again.

  19. Q said...

    Yeah I guessed the nighwatchman part as he had come in with 8 overs to go in the day and u mentioned he was a bits n pieces player.

    Well played Usman Khwajah even though its a 3rd string bowling attack. 85 on first class debut ain't bad.

    Something tells me he has a bright future. Either that or the Aussie press is taking a lesson or two from their Indian counterparts and hyping up young blokes ahead of time.

  20. Jrod said...

    He is getting hyped, but its because other than Dav Whatmore, we have never had a player born in the sub continent play for Australia.

    But he is a long way back in selections. Because there are 2 batsmen, one top order one middle order who are playing for the under19 side, and they will expect to come back into the side when they come back.

  21. Q said...

    As long as he gets his chances whenever he can I think its good.

    Another reason for the hype I believe is that in the subcontinent it is viewed that the Aussies do not like to have Asians in their state sides for the domestic competitions - I think Usman's Inclusion may go a long way in proving otherwise.

    A lot of my friends who went to Australia for post graduate studies said that they couldnt play for their university teams cos they only chose Australians..maybe thats true or maybe they were'nt good enough :-)

  22. Jrod said...

    Look there are probably certain clubs where that is true, there are still places Aboriginals and Italians aren't welcome.

    My junior cricket team had Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Turkish, Italian Greek and Aussies in it. Victoria has an indian player on its list, NSWales obviously do and Western Australian have an Indian born player as well.

    Just saw some highlights of Usman batting, he looks very good, but he definitely bats like an Australian.

  23. Q said...

    As I said Uncle J, the boy who complained were probably not that good :-)

    Seeing u mention the foreing / Asian cricketers in the junior teams, it looks like its more media hype that Aussies don't welcome foreing cricketers than anything else.

    Is their a link on the web to these highlights u mention?

  24. Ujay said...

    buck up U.K....kick some paki buttss!!!! oh yeaahhhh....i read about him a while ago....

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