Usman Khawaja is a Pakistani-born Australian cricketer who currently plays for the Australian national cricket team and the local team ‘Queensland.’ He is a left-handed batsman and a right-arm medium bowler. Usman was born in Islamabad, the national capital of Pakistan, and moved with his family to New South Wales, Australia, when he was 5 years old. Before he made his international test debut in the 2010–2011 ‘Ashes’ series against England, he earned his bachelor’s degree in aviation from the ‘University of New South Wales.’ Playing as a top-order batsman, Usman was named to the Australian U-19 squad to play in the 2006 ‘U-19 Cricket World Cup,’ which was held in Sri Lanka. He then played first-class cricket for his local team, ‘New South Wales.’ He has also played cricket for the domestic Australian side ‘Sydney Thunder’ and the English team ‘Derbyshire.’ In the 41 test matches that he has played for his national team, Usman has scored 2,765 runs, with an average of 42.53. He has also played 31 one-day international (ODI) matches and has scored 1,238 runs, with a batting average of 44.21. He has also played for the team ‘Rising Pune Supergiant’ (now defunct) in the ‘Indian Premier League’ in 2016 and 2017.
Childhood & Early Life
Usman Tariq Khawaja was born on December 18, 1986, in Islamabad, Pakistan, to Tariq Khawaja and Fozia Tariq. He was the third child in the family and grew up with his two older brothers, Arsalan and Nauman. The family moved to New South Wales in Australia when Usman was 5 years old.
The family settled in a small apartment on Cook Road, Centennial Park. Usman and his brothers started playing cricket in a park near their house. However, Usman faced a few difficulties while playing, as he was too young to play with the older boys in his group.
He also did not know English when he arrived in Australia. That, too, created a lot of difficulties for Usman, as he was not able to mingle with the other kids and play street cricket with them.
As a kid, Usman watched a lot of international matches at the ‘Sydney Cricket Ground,’ which was located a few minutes away from his house.
The family lived amidst difficult conditions in their early years in Australia. They shifted to a bigger house in Erksine Park, near Penrith, when his father got a steady job as an IT architect.
Usman faced a lot of racial discrimination when he was in school. Despite everything, he was academically good. Following his graduation from the ‘Westfields Sports High School,’ Usman enrolled at the ‘University of New South Wales’ and earned a degree in aviation. He earned his license as a pilot even before he got his driver’s license.
However, his real forte lay in cricket. He had already started his domestic cricket career before he graduated from college.
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At the age of 19, Usman participated in the ‘Australian U-19 Championship’, playing for the ‘New South Wales’ team and was subsequently named the ‘Player of the Australian Under-19 Championship.’ This opened ways for him to be selected for the Australian ‘U-19 World Cup’ team. He opened the batting for his team in the 2006 ‘U-19 World Cup,’ which was held in Sri Lanka.
By 2008, he had made his first-class debut, playing for the ‘New South Wales Blues.’ The same year, he hit 2 consecutive double centuries for the ‘New South Wales Second XI.’ This earned him the attention of the selectors of the Australian national test team.
In June 2010, an official announcement stated that Usman was to be part of the Australian squad for a two-test match series against Pakistan.
His selection for the 2010–2011 ‘Ashes’ series was a big achievement. The ‘Ashes’ is an annual series of five test matches played between the English and the Australian cricket teams. Usman bagged a chance to play in the third match, when Ricky Ponting got injured. However, Usman’s official debut happened in the fifth match of the series.
With that, Usman became the first Muslim player to play for the Australian test team. He was also the first Pakistani-born Australian international cricketer.
Since his test debut against England, Usman has been a regular in the Australian test team, barring a few occasional roadblocks, such as bad form and disciplinary action against him. Ever since he made his debut, Usman has played in 41 test matches for Australia and has scored 2,765 runs, with a batting average of 42.53 runs per innings. He has also scored 14 test half-centuries and 8 test centuries.
He made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka in January 2013, in Melbourne. He has scored 1,238 ODI runs in the 31 matches that he has played, with 2 ODI centuries and 10 ODI half-centuries.
He has also been associated with the ‘Big Bash League,’ an Australian domestic Twenty20 league, in which he plays for the local team ‘Sydney Thunder.’
He also became popular among the English domestic county leagues and has played for ‘Derbyshire’ from 2011 to 2014. He was signed by ‘Lancashire’ in 2014, to play for the team in all formats.
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In 2015, he was appointed as the captain of the local team ‘Queensland,’ replacing James Hopes, and in April 2018, he was signed by the ‘Glamorgan County Cricket Club’ for the 2018 ‘Vitality Blast’ tournament.
He has also been a regular in international Twenty20 matches, ever since he made his debut against India on January 31, 2016, in Sydney.
In 2013, he was suspended, along with James Pattinson, Shane Watson, and Mitchell Johnson, during his India tour, before the third test match against the host country. The disciplinary action was, however, met with a lot of criticism from the Australian media.
Since the introduction of the day–night test match format, Usman became the first-ever cricketer to score a century in the fresh format of test matches.
Family & Personal Life
Usman Khawaja married Rachel McLellan on April 6, 2018. He had announced his engagement in December 2016. Rachel converted to Islam before the wedding. She has been his pillar of strength throughout the ups and downs of his professional life, especially when he was once dropped from the team after playing two test matches in Sri Lanka.
He also shares a strong bond with his parents. His mother prays before every ball he plays when he bats.
His older brother, Arsalan Khawaja, has had quite a few issues with the Australian police. In December 2018, he was apprehended by the police for his connection with a “fake terrorist hit list.” He was released on bail in the same month but was taken back to jail when he tried to contact and influence a witness.
Usman’s favorite batsmen are Brian Lara and Adam Gilchrist. Some of his favorite bowlers are Waqar Younis, Brett Lee, and Wasim Akram.
He loves listening to music, playing the guitar, and playing golf in his leisure time. Emma Watson is one of his favorite movie stars.