Monday, January 3, 2011
USMAN KHAWAJA DEBUTS FOR AUSTRALIA
Ricky Ponting will miss the final Test of the Ashes series. He will be replaced by Usman Khawaja, who has been a part of the Australian squad since the Pakistan series, but is yet to make his debut.
Khawaja is a Pakistani-born player and moved to Australia with his family when he was just three years old. He will be the first Muslim player to represent the Australian cricket team when he receives the baggy green in the Sydney Test.
Khawaja grew up watching the Australian team dominate the other teams in the world. He used to hang around the entrance of the ground until he was allowed to have a peek at his heroes playing under the captaincy of Steve Waugh. His family wasn’t able to afford match tickets, but now Khawaja will be the part of the team which he used to watch. It will be a priceless experience for Khawaja as he replaces Ponting for the Sydney Test.
He will be making his debut at his home ground. Australia has already lost the Ashes but the series can be saved if the hosts can manage a win in the final Test. Khawaja is excited about his chances and said, “It's been a childhood dream for me. Ever since I can remember I wanted to play for Australia.”
Khawaja is a wristy left-hander and has impressed his team-mates with his performances in the domestic season. The 24-year-old also received words of praise from the man he will replace; Ricky Ponting. The New South Wales player also has great regard for Ponting. He stated, “Ricky is a legend of a cricketer, a legend of a bloke. I've only met him a few times, but he's made me feel like I've been part of the team when I really haven't.”
He also said that he will only look to perform in the match and is not there to replace the legendary Australian cricketer. He said, “He's the kind of guy that if he told me to jump off a bridge I probably would, I'd follow him anywhere. I'm not here to fill Ricky Ponting's shoes, I'm going to go out there and try and do the best I can. To replace 12,000 runs is a big feat and I still haven't scored any.”
Playing for North South Wales (NSW), Khawaja has featured in 27 first-class games and has scored runs at an average of 51.70. He started the season with a double ton but hasn’t been able to score another century after that. He has however scored some useful fifties for his team. He was the leading scorer in the Sheffield Shield Cup, scoring 598 runs at an average of 74.75. The Australian team has been unable to get big scores from their top order batsmen. Most of the runs have come from the middle and lower-middle order.
Usman Khawaja will be expected to score that big hundred for the team which they have been missing from the likes of Ponting, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson. This will be a tough ask for Khawaja, but if he manages to make a big score on debut, it will be quite a memorable innings for him.
All eyes will be set on the debutant Khawaja. It will not be easy for him as England will put him under pressure, but he could be the answer to Australia’s recent batting problems.