Usman Tariq Khawaja
December 18, 1986, Islamabad, Pakistan
Left hand Bat
Right arm Medium
Top order Batter
Usman Khawaja needed plenty of skill, patience and composure to qualify as a pilot, and the same qualities helped establish him as a batter of high class for Australia although it was his return to the Test team in 2022 which shaped as the most remarkable chapter of his career.
Born in Pakistan, Khawaja moved with his family to Australia when he was a young boy, and in the 2011 Sydney Ashes Test became the first Muslim to play for Australia. Batting at No. 3 in place of the injured Ricky Ponting, he made 37 and 21 and showed impressive poise, giving Australia a ray of hope in a series that had brought them little but doom and gloom. A classy left-hander in the languid style of David Gower, Khawaja won further Test opportunities from 2011 to 2013 but never quite kicked on beyond his regularly appealing starts.
A move from New South Wales to Queensland in 2012 helped to reinvigorate his career; he declared his enjoyment of the game had ebbed away in Sydney. A serious knee injury suffered in late 2014 put him out of action for six months, but when he returned to captain Australia A on the 2015 tour of India he impressed Rod Marsh's selection panel, and further leadership opportunities came when he was named captain of Queensland for the 2015-16 season. In the same season he proved himself as a quality T20 player by dominating the BBL with four superb innings, including two unbeaten centuries, to guide Sydney Thunder to the title. He also established himself in the Test team in 2015-16 and played consistently well in matches at home but struggled away, particularly in Asia where lost his place in the side on tours of Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
But Khawaja's subcontinent demons were finally slayed in the UAE in 2018 when he made an epic match-saving century against Pakistan in Dubai. He became Australia's most senior batter while Steve Smith and David Warner were banned following the ball-tampering scandal and settled himself in the ODI team with two outstanding tours of India and the UAE in 2019, making his first two ODI centuries to ensure selection in the 2019 World Cup squad.
However, a few months later he had lost his places in both the Test and ODI sides when Marnus Labuschagne's form forced him out of the Ashes. As the next two years unfolded it appeared another chance may not arrive, but consistent returns for Queensland put him in the frame for the 2021-22 and then, in a sliding-doors moment, he was brought into the side for the SCG Test when Travis Head caught Covid. He responded with back-to-back centuries which made him undroppable so he was moved up to open and in a memorable homecoming was Player of the Series on the historic tour of Pakistan.
Batting & Fielding