Khawaja`s emergence a spur for Australia

Last Updated: Dec 31, 2010, 19:17 PM IST

Sydney: Out of the gloom of failing to regain the Ashes and Ricky Ponting`s travails, comes the feel-good story of Usman Khawaja`s emergence into an Australian team desperate to level the series.

Khawaja gets his chance to make his Test debut in the Sydney match, the fifth and final clash of the Ashes, after skipper Ponting was ruled out with complications to a broken little finger.

Pakistan-born Khawaja, 24, is in line to become the first Muslim to play Test cricket for his adopted country.

The player himself says he thinks little about it, but his father cannot ignore the significance. "Obviously, it will have a positive impact," Tariq Khawaja said. "It`s good for the (Muslim) community.”

"It shows that it`s a fair system and whoever puts in effort can achieve anything in this country. Not only Muslims, any religion. As a youngster, if you have passion and if you have dreams, you can make it work."

Many have touted Khawaja`s Test potential and he comes into the Australia team as the leading scorer in this season`s domestic Sheffield Shield competition with 598 runs at 74.75.

Khawaja`s inclusion would reflect the multicultural nature of Australian society and he comes highly regarded by his New South Wales teammates and coaches.

"It`s fantastic that Usman is in the team," Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said.

"He`s a role model for Australian kids, no matter what background they are."

Test and NSW batsman Simon Katich rates Khawaja as one of the most accomplished young batsmen in the Australian game.

"I have been raving about him for some time and I have always thought technically he is one of the best young batsmen going around," Katich said. "He has a lot of time, he is very stylish and great to watch.”

"He is very good off the back foot which is a good sign for a batsman from Sydney and he is very strong against the short stuff and is a very good all-round player."

PTI