Out-of-favor Australia batsman Usman Khawaja has lashed out at the idea of him being a 'lazy' person, terming it as an example of racial stereotyping.
Khawaja feels cricket needs to do more to allure players from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
The Pakistan-born southpaw moved to Australia in the early years of his life and became the first Muslim player to represent Australia in Test Cricket, when he donned the national whites in the last game of the 2010-11 Ashes series.
“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 said, while speaking to cricket.com.au.
Khawaja feels that he is not as agile a runner as everyone else, which he believes has propelled the 'lazy' narrative about him.
“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," he added.
Usman Khawaja will work with CA to increase diversity in Australian Cricket
Cricket Australia has invited Khawaja to join a working group that will work towards increasing diversity in the game.
The 33-year-old feels that Cricket Australia have done fairly well to accommodate cricketers from diverse backgrounds, but emphasized that there is still a lot to be done including giving young players the confidence and support from the grass-roots level. He said:
“When it comes to diversity ... I think we’ve been okay at it but we’re still just not quite there. If you look at the landscape in terms of multicultural cricketers around, we’ve got a few subcontinental cricketers [but] we’ve still got a long way to go. Kids need to be given support. We need to let them know, ‘Hey, you’re not the only person going through this, we’ve been through this, we’ve seen this, we’ve dealt with it and we’ve pushed on. You can do the same thing.' "
Usman Khawaja's work with Cricket Australia will be categorized under a broader 'diversity and inclusion action plan'. The governing body at Cricket Australia will work closely with external members, like Khawaja, to devise an accurate framework for each action plan.