Australia’s Pakistan-born cricketer Usman Khawaja is of the opinion that racial stereotypes - subcontinent people being ‘slow’ by nature - played a major hand in him being perceived by fans and experts as a ‘lazy’ cricketer. Khawaja further called for more cultural diversity in Australian cricket.
A flamboyant left-hander who oozes class, Usman Khawaja, born in Islamabad, Pakistan, moved to Australia at the tender age of five and started making inroads in professional cricket in the country as early as his teenage years. At 21, the southpaw made his first-class debut for New South Wales and by 24, he’d earnt his maiden Test cap.
However, despite being a regular feature in the side post 2013 and also prolific with the bat, the southpaw was not able to evade one major criticism - that of him being a ‘lazy’ player, something which, subsequently, also reflected on his fielding.
A much fitter cricketer now, Khawaja, while acknowledging that he had a ‘relaxed’ demeanor, opined that a lot of criticism that came his way, with respect to him being lazy, stemmed from racial stereotypes.
"I always had that 'lazy' undertone when I was growing up and I think part of that was my relaxed nature but part of it was also because I was Pakistani, and subcontinent people were seen as lazy, not doing the hard yards and whatnot," Khawaja told cricket.com.au.
"Running has never been natural to me, so when we used to do lots of fitness testing I wasn't as good as everyone else. When you put that against where I was from, that did play against me.
"I like to think we're starting to move on from that, but there's definitely still that undertone … I still hear (similar stereotypes), if someone's a bit different."
The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has opened the eyes of organizations across the globe, with respect to the lack of multiculturalism in institutions, and while acknowledging that Cricket Australia have done a decent job, Khawaja insisted that the board still have a ‘long way to go’ when it comes to addressing diversity-related issues.
One of several players of sub-continent origin to have represented Australia in the last decade alongside the likes of Fawad Ahmed and Gurinder Sandhu, Khawaja revealed that he had a conversation with former CA chief executive Kevin Roberts regarding diversity in Australian cricket.
"The older I've gotten, the more I've realised that when it comes to diversity – especially in cricket in general – I think we've been OK at it but we're still just not quite there," he said.
"If you look at the landscape in terms of multicultural cricketers around, we've got a few subcontinental cricketers – myself, Gurinder (Sandhu), Arjun Nair, Jason Sangha and Tanveer Sangha coming up through the ranks … (but) we've still got a long way to go.
"I called up Kevin Roberts before he resigned to talk about this. I said, 'Look, I know there's a lot of stuff going on with coronavirus, there's cost cutting going on, but cultural diversity in cricket, it's something I'm really passionate about, so if you need any help from me, please reach out. I want to make sure you don't make too many cuts in this respect because I think this is a big part of where Cricket Australia is going'.
Last week, all-rounder Daniel Christian had also alleged that there was casual racism in Australian cricket. His comments instigated CA to launch an investigation into the same.