Usman`s dad says baggy green for son will heal nation

Last Updated: Nov 25, 2010, 14:52 PM IST

Brisbane: New South Wales middle-order batsman Usman Khawaja`s father, Tariq, has said that his son`s selection in the Australian squad for the Ashes series should not be seen in a religious light, but as an event that could heal the nation.
"As far as we`re concerned, it`s irrelevant. We never look at it in those terms. We never discuss religion. It is in the background, because he is an Australian," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Tariq, as saying.

Pakistan-born Khawaja has been dispatching myth and prejudice to the boundary for the past few seasons with the same class and determination that has seen him do it with regular monotony to a Kookaburra, and as a result, he has been called up into the national squad as cover for vice-captain Michael Clarke, who is suffering from a back injury.

While Clarke remains desperately hopeful his back will settle down and he can play, he appeared far from comfortable during a training session at the Gabba yesterday.

Meanwhile, Khawaja looked like a 23-year-old ready to seize the moment as he batted in the nets.

"He is calm and composed. He keeps himself unemotional. He might not play in this Test match, but you feel it is just a matter of time," said Tariq.

Khawaja was born in Islamabad and moved to Australia with his parents and two older brothers in 1990 when he was just three. Yet his elevation since then has readily been viewed through the prism of his religion.

Whether he is fasting for Ramadan or praying at a mosque before a day`s play, the principles of his faith have made for lively newspaper copy.

The only aspect of his life that has drawn attention away from it is the fact he studied aviation at university and has a commercial pilot`s licence.

His teammates over the years are more likely to playfully sledge him about that, although a coach used to call him "Used Car Yard" as rhyming slang for his surname.

True to Australian smart-arse form, Khawaja thought it hilarious.

"I`m with the boys all the time and never once do I feel like I`m different," he said on his selection in the Australian squad that played Pakistan in England in July.

"When I first got told I was going to England, that [being Australian cricket`s first Muslim] didn`t even cross my mind. It never does cross my mind until everyone else brings it up."

ANI