ISLAMABAD: Usman Khawaja is aware of the significance of his return to Pakistan as part of the first Australia Test team to visit the country in 24 years, but won’t be treating the opening contest in Rawalpindi, close to where he was born in Islamabad, as any different to the multitude of other matches he has played.
He spoke with great eloquence, Australia’s first full day in the country, and answered a couple of questions in Urdu during a 30-minute press conference that almost became a life story. But, as he said, once the game starts and there’s a bowler running in nothing else matters.
“The fact I’m playing in Pakistan is special, don’t me wrong, it’s very special, something I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up down the road. There is a bit of sentiment, definitely, but once the game starts you don’t really think about that stuff. More worried about the ball coming down and everything else going on.”
Khawaja last visited the country with his family in 2010 and after a sliding doors moment during the recent Ashes, he returns as one of Australia’s incumbent openers, so could walk out on the opening morning of the game on Friday.
Had it not been for Travis Head’s positive Covid-19 result before the Sydney Test in January, Khawaja may well have been carrying the drinks at the start of the series. Instead, he scored twin centuries at the SCG which left him undroppable, so the selectors shifted him to open alongside David Warner at the expense of Marcus Harris.
“Any game is just a game of cricket,” he said. “I’ve played it for such a long time now, been out of the team, now back in the team, [so] every game for me for Australia is just a bonus. I’m not out here to prove anything…got a lot of things in my life that is great that isn’t cricket related so for me it’s not the be-all and end-all. Just love playing cricket, love being competitive.
Khawaja’s mother and father are unable to travel from Australia for the series and the strict security around the team mean he won’t be able to meet the many family and friends he has in the country. He expects a warm response from the crowds – although knows they’ll want Australia to lose – and is grateful how the stars have aligned for his chance at this experience.
“I’m sure I’ll look back on it and think that was pretty cool, the first tour of Pakistan after so many years, being born in Pakistan,” he said. “As fate would have it everything has worked out beautifully – touchwood, I don’t hurt myself before the Test match – so things have worked out really well, but it’s hard to become too reminiscent at the time because you’ve still got to play a game of cricket.”