Khawaja flying high after Australia-A call-up

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If all goes well for Usman Khawaja, he could be on a plane to England in July to face the country of his birth in a Test series. What’s more he could fly the plane himself. At 23, Khawaja is a qualified pilot, a batsman of rare class and he could soon be the first Pakistani-born player to represent Australia.

But first things first: Khawaja has been chosen for Australia A’s series against Sri Lanka A in Brisbane in June. The selection was no surprise, for Khawaja posted three Sheffield Shield centuries and averaged 63.45 for New South Wales last summer. But the timing, as with so many of Khawaja’s strokes, has been exquisite.

The Australian selectors have delayed naming the squad for the two Tests against Pakistan until they see how the A-team performs and thanks to Phillip Hughes’ busted shoulder there is a backup batting spot available. Khawaja’s stiffest competition is likely to come from the Australia A captain George Bailey and the No. 3 Michael Klinger.

Khawaja’s youth means he is more of a long-term prospect than Klinger, who will be 30 by the first Test, and his first-class average of a touch under 50 dwarfs Bailey’s mark of 38. He’s not thinking of Test tours just yet, although the baggy green has been Khawaja’s primary objective ever since he was introduced to the sport by his cricket-mad father.

“There is a Test spot but there’s still a few games in the A tournament and I’ve just got to keep scoring runs,” Khawaja told Cricinfo. "Aussie A is really exciting. I used to watch the Aussie A guys on TV back in the day when they were in the one-day series. I’m pretty excited, representing Australia in anything is really, really exciting. It’s another step up - I can’t wait."

When the family moved from Islamabad to Sydney, Khawaja was three. His father Tariq continued to support Pakistan but gradually switched allegiances to Australia as his son moved through the ranks. There have been semi-regular trips back to Pakistan, but Khawaja never considered playing for the country of his birth.

“Even if they [Pakistan] came calling, there was never a chance of me going there anyway,” he said. "Ever since I was young I’ve been loyal to Australia and all I’ve ever wanted to do is represent Australia and get that baggy green. The thought never even crossed my mind. Australia feels like home, so I don’t think it would be right."

He reckons his dad was “pretty stoked” to hear of the A-team call-up, although Khawaja has shown such poise since making his state debut two years ago that it was only a matter of time. His cricketing success means that his second passion, aviation, has been put aside and he hasn’t taken to the cockpit for 18 months.

“Piloting was the thing I was doing, pretty much as a fall back plan for cricket,” he said. "I love cricket to death, and all I ever wanted to do was play cricket. When you’re about 18 and nothing’s certain, I didn’t have any contract and had just made the NSW U-19s team, it was all uncertain. I just felt like I had to do a degree, get it under my belt and I didn’t have to worry about that part of my life.

"There’s nothing like a great landing - it’s a great feeling. But I don’t think there’s anything in the world like scoring a hundred or winning a big title for your team. Cricket has always taken that mantle."

Perhaps having not piloted for a while he’d better not fly that plane to London after all. But if he performs against Sri Lanka A, he might just earn a passenger’s ticket.


Good for him.... cheers!

Wish he would play for pakistan :(

Well this proves another point one day Each time will have atleast one Pakistan player. :lol:

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Well this proves another point one day Each time will have atleast one Pakistan player. :lol: