Cricket News: ‘They’ll pick the white guy’

Usman Khawaja believes Australian cricket has plenty of work to do to change the attitude towards non-white players at all levels.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Khawaja, who became the first South Asian-born player to play Test cricket for Australia when he made his debut in January 2011, claimed ‘nothing’s changed’ from the challenges he faced at the beginning of his career.

“When I looked at the TV, I saw these really brash, really stubborn, beer-drinking white Australians that were the same kind of guys racially vilifying me while I was playing cricket,” Khawaja told The Drop.

“I was like, ‘Well, why would I support this team that doesn’t support me?’

“I found that really hard growing up, and I think that bit of resentment still sticks with a lot of young kids, particularly from ethnic backgrounds, that always get called names and racially vilified.

‘Curry muncher’ is the one that sticks out to me the most. I used to get called that all the time.”

Khawaja remains the only Muslim player to ever be selected to play for Australia, while more than 98 per cent of the country’s 464 Test cricketers have been white.

The 36-year old believes that overwhelming majority comes back to bias, unconscious or otherwise, from the likewise predominantly white coaching and administrative set-up of Australian cricket.

“If you have two cricketers, one brown, one white, both the same, the white coach is going to pick the white cricketer just because he has a son that might look similar to him,” he said.

“It’s what’s familiar to him.”

According to Khawaja, the lack of representation means a growing number of young Australians, particularly those from South Asian backgrounds, are turning their backs on their home nation.

Usman Khawaja of Australia acknowledges the crowd as he leaves the field during day two of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and South Africa at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 05, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“I met three guys yesterday who said ‘Good luck in India, Uzzy, we hope you kill it. But we’re still gonna support India’,” Khawaja said.

“I started laughing. They were obviously kids of Indian background but I asked ‘Where were you born?’ and they said ‘Australia’.

“I was like, ‘Come on man! Support me, support Australia, what are you doing! I’m here, I’m representing you!’

“You see cricketers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, everywhere at a young level. But as you get up at a high-performance level, it just drops exponentially. It just drops, drops, drops.

“That’s where I’m trying to work with Cricket Australia saying, ‘Look, guys … you invest a lot of money into this, but something’s not going right. You’ve been doing it for 10 years and nothing’s changed’.”

Khawaja recently shared on social media his experience dealing with racism from security while part of the Australian team, writing that he ‘got stopped 3 times last year at our hotel, while in Australian kit and asked if I was with the Australian Cricket team’.

Rashid Khan has threatened to quit playing in the BBL, highlighting Afghanistan’s furious response after Australia’s decision to cancel a men’s ODI series against them.

Rashid, the world’s pre-eminent white-ball player who’s starred for the Adelaide Strikers, said on Thursday he was “strongly considering” his future in the Australian T20 league over the issue.

Cricket Australia has decided to pull out its men’s team from the three-match series in the UAE, citing the Taliban’s ban on university education for girls in Afghanistan.

“I am really disappointed to hear that Australia have pulled out of the series to play us in March,” Rashid said in a statement.

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“I take great pride in representing my country, and we have made great progress on the world stage. This decision from CA sets us back in that journey.

Rashid Khan of the Strikers celebrates

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“If playing vs Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia, then I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore, I will be strongly considering my future in that competition.”

In a tweet to the accounts of Cricket Australia, the BBL and ACB officials, Rashid added: “Cricket! The only hope for the country. Keep politics out of it.”

The brilliant allrounder played eight matches for Strikers this season before going to play in the SA20 league in South Africa and wasn’t expected to return to Australia this season.

Yet his threat not to play the BBL merely exemplified the anger from within the Afghan men’s game.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board called CA’s statement “pathetic”, saying it would write to the ICC over the issue and accusing the Australians of “prioritising political interests over the principles of fair play and sportsmanship”.

It also said Australia was “undermining the integrity of the game and damaging the relationship between the two nations” and reinforced Rashid’s stance by saying it would “rethink the participation of Afghan players in the Big Bash League” if CA did not overturn its decision.

Earlier, CA had announced it had made its decision about the men’s team’s withdrawal following consultation with the Australian government.

It cited the recent announcement from the governing Taliban that it was banning university education for girls, a development the ICC’s Australian CEO Geoff Allardice had described as concerning.

If Afghan players do pull out of the BBL, it will leave a big gap to fill as players like Mohammad Nabi, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Qais Ahmad, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Izharulhaq Naveed and Naveen-ul-Haq have distinguished themselves in recent years.

Their T20I captain Rashid, though, has been their flagbearer at the Strikers, with over 400 runs and nearly 100 wickets to his name.

Naveen, who played for Sydney Sixers, added on Twitter that he wouldn’t take part in the BBL.

“Time to say won’t be participating in big bash after this until they stop these childish decisions,” he said.

“When a country is going through so much in place of being supportive you want to take the only reason of happiness from them.”

CA had previously cancelled an Afghanistan fixture over the Taliban government’s policies towards women, a one-off Test scheduled in November 2021.

Former Afghan white-ball international Aftab Alam responded on Twitter, saying: “Dear Cricket Australia! Cricket is a sport and it always separate from politics, that’s the 2nd time that cancelling the matches with ACB, its unfair that a cricket playing nation like Australia doing injustice like that.

“Our players are the beauty of your cricket #BBL.”

Handscomb hurt hip won’t hamper tour

Peter Handscomb is in a race against the clock to go on his first Australian Test tour in four years after scans confirmed a hip injury.

Handscomb was hurt on Tuesday night while playing club cricket in Victoria, when he was hit attempting to play a pull shot.

He continued batting, but collapsed in pain three balls later after hitting another pull shot for six.

Scans have since confirmed soft-tissue damage in his right hip.

Officials are confident Handscomb will be fit to leave with the Australian team to India at the end of this month.

Australia already have other injury concerns in their camp, with Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green both nursing finger injuries.

Starc will miss the first Test in Nagpur on February 9 and fly to India afterwards, while Green is hopeful of playing in the series opener.

Handscomb’s best chance of a Test recall is likely to be if he is passed fit for the first match and Green does not recover in time.

Working in Handscomb’s favour is the fact he is a right-hander, and could break up the string of left-handers in the middle order. 

Sri Lankans face alarming allegations from Australian tour

Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been charged with four counts of sexually assaulting a woman during the team’s trip to Australia last November for the T20 World Cup.

A Sydney magistrate has adjourned the case in which the 31-year-old is alleged to have choked a woman he had met on a dating app at her Rose Bay home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

In Downing Centre Local Court, Magistrate David Price, adjourned the matter until February 23, so a police brief of evidence can be finalised.

The incident is part of a damming report handed down by an independent panel to Sri Lankan cricket authorities about the disastrous trip to Australia.

After suffering a shock loss to minnows Namibia they won just two of their five Super 12 matches to miss the semi-finals.

Fast bowler Chamika Karunaratne was fined and handed a suspended ban after he was caught brawling at a casino, along with six teammates, after he took offence to a member of the public taking a photo of him.

Chamika Karunaratne of Sri Lanka appeals.

Chamika Karunaratne. (Photo by Steve Bell – ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

The independent panel has recommended that casinos should be off limits on future tours.

Former star batter Mahela Jayawardene was also on the tour as a “consultant coach” with his expenses covered by the Sri Lankan board but it is alleged his main motivation for coming to Australia was to open a restaurant for his upmarket Ministry of Crab chain.

The panel also found a man “claiming to be a prophet” also established considerable influence over key players and off-field staff.

Stars alive in BBL after smashing Strikers

Tom Rogers has hit the first half-century of his BBL career to help the Melbourne Stars chase down a meagre total in a crucial nine-wicket win over Adelaide.

The Strikers’ high-powered batting line-up crumbled at the MCG on Thursday night as they were bowled out for just 108, following successive scores of 200-plus.

It was the lowest total of any side batting first this season and the third-lowest in Strikers franchise history.

In reply, the Stars cruised to 1-109 with 33 balls in hand without taking the power surge.

Rogers – a late inclusion as injured skipper Glenn Maxwell’s replacement this season – was the mainstay as he notched 51 not out from 45 balls.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a young kid, so it’s an incredibly special feeling,” the 23-year-old said.

“We needed a win desperately … so if we can pile a few together now, you never know.”

The result lifted the Stars (3-7) off the bottom of the ladder and improved their net run rate, giving them a finals lifeline ahead of Saturday’s derby against the Renegades.

Adelaide (5-5) host the last-placed Brisbane Heat on the same day and are still firmly in the mix.

The Strikers’ low total came despite Matt Short hitting two of the first three deliveries of their innings for six as he took 20 off Luke Wood’s opening over.

They were the only two sixes of Adelaide’s innings.

Experienced duo Nathan Coulter-Nile (3-17) and Adam Zampa (2-20) shone for the Stars, who clamped down on their opponents and bowled almost 60 dot balls.

Liam Hatcher (2-18) removed the competition’s top two run scorers – Short (20) and Chris Lynn (one) – while Beau Webster took a superb diving catch at extra cover to remove Adam Hose.

“The ridiculous thing about (Webster) is that’s not one of the better ones I’ve seen,” Rogers said.

“He’s that good and some of the slips catches I’ve seen from him are just ridiculous, so I fully expected him to catch that.”

Wood (1-33, 3.2 overs) was the only Stars bowler with an economy rate above five runs an over.

Harry Nielsen (40) top-scored for the Strikers, who are winless from six attempts against the Stars at the MCG.

“We were well short with the bat,” Nielsen said. “We didn’t get off to the greatest start and found it hard work from then on. Those things happen in T20 cricket and you’ve got to move on pretty quickly.”

Rahul leads India to series victory

India have recovered from a precarious 4-86 to beat Sri Lanka by four wickets and take the series in the second one-day international, with KL Rahul ending up as their hero.

Rahul led India with an unbeaten 64 off 103 balls, with Kuldeep Yadav hitting the winning boundary in the 44th over of Thursday’s contest to take India to their target on 6-219 in reply to Sri Lanka’s 215 all out with a couple of overs remaining.

“We thought it was a 280-300 wicket but our bowlers did well to keep them to under 220,” Rahul, who batted at five rather than as an opener, said.

“They put up a good fight and got breakthroughs. It wasn’t a wicket impossible to bat on, and we always try to find a way to win. Batting at number five has helped me understand my game better.”

India now have an unassailable 2-0 lead with the last ODI scheduled for Sunday at Thiruvananthapuram.

Earlier, Yadav had picked up 3-51 to help bowl out Sri Lanka, who’d been thriving at 1-102, with 10.2 overs to spare.

Sri Lanka debutant Nuwanidu Fernando opened with a sedate maiden half-century before being caught up in a careless run-out. He scored 50 off 63 balls.

Fernando put on 73 for the second wicket with Kusal Mendis (34) but when the latter was trapped by Yadav in the 17th over, Sri Lanka collapsed.

Yadav also dismissed Charitha Asalanka (15) and bowled Dasun Shanaka (2) as Sri Lanka slipped from 1-102 to 6-126 in 7.2 overs.

Sri Lanka managed to cross 200 only thanks to Dunith Wellalage’s late cameo of 32 off 34 balls.

India made a horrible start to the chase when Sri Lanka’s pacers exploited the dewy conditions.

Rohit Sharma was caught behind for 17, and Shubman Gill was out for 21 to Lahiru Kumara, who also bowled Virat Kohli for four.

India were ailing at 3-62, which soon became 4-86 when Shreyas Iyer (28) was out lbw to Kasun Rajitha.

But Rahul then built a partnership with Hardik Pandya (36) worth 75 for the fifth wicket.

Despite Pandya’s dismissal, Rahul continued to hold the innings together, reaching his 11th half-century off 93 balls, including six fours.

Axar Patel added 21 off 21 balls to accelerate India’s successful chase.

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