Australia’s Usman Khawaja has revealed struggling with racial abuse as a child deterred him from supporting the national team and says he was “sledged about his heritage”.
Australia’s first Pakistani-born player, Khawaja has established himself as one of the side’s leading Test batsman, having achieved five centuries in 24 Tests.
The 30-year-old claims racist abuse prevented many overseas-born cricketers from playing for the country and culminated in him not supporting any teams in Australia.
“Getting sledged by opposition players and their parents was the norm,” Khawaja told the Players Voice website.
“Some of them said it just quietly enough for only me to hear.
“It still hurt, but I would never show it.”
Khawaja became the first Muslim to play Test cricket for Australia when he made his debut against England in 2011.
He recalls negative impressions as a child, when watching Australia play.
“I was brought up to be respectful, humble and polite. But when I watched the Aussie team, I saw men who were hard-nosed, confident, almost brutish,” he added.
“The same type of men who would sledge me about my heritage growing up.
“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 didn’t either.”
Khawaja feels the situation is improving, due to more supportive measures nurturing young talent from ethnic backgrounds within its diverse population.
“Australian cricket is slowly changing and will finally have a chance to reflect what Australia really is – an international team truly representative of its richly diverse population,” he said.