Usman Khawaja says he is living out his “Australian Dream” after his outstanding comeback hundred at the SCG on Day two left Australia in a formidable position.
865 days since his last test match, the 35-year-old has reminded fans of his quality with a classy century on a difficult batting surface at the SCG.
Khawaja’s return to the side came from a positive COVID test to the favoured Travis Head, whom he had been overlooked for at the selection table at the beginning of the series, yet after being another Australian player to take their chance and run with it this Ashes series, presents more headaches for head selector George Bailey.
An innings filled with expansive cover drives and confident back foot hook shots and trademark pull shots, Khawaja pleased the strong SCG crowd, who showed their appreciation for the former hometown hero from ball one.
Speaking to the media at Stump’s on Day 2, Khawaja reflected on just how special this day was for him.
“Look I was just excited I was so pumped [I] didn’t think I was going to hit 100 they don’t come very often a lot of hard work goes into them and I got taken away by the moment really I had so much support the crowd has been excellent,” he said.
“They’ve [the crowd] been behind me the whole way through even when I came out there yesterday, I got a big roaring reception, it’s been unbelievable.
“It was a lot of fun going out there having lots of support at my former home-ground and people treating me like a local boy so it’s nice”
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Despite Khawaja living in Queensland with his wife and kids, the 35-year-old is still very thankful to New South Wales and his hometown of Sydney.
“My parents still live in Parramatta and I play for Sydney Thunder and I still have a lot of connection to Sydney and respect for (Sydney) but I am Queenslander now, my wife is from Queenslander my daughter is born there, but look I don’t forget where I come from. I never have” he said
It was a heartwarming moment when Khawaja ran down his final three runs to bring up his comeback century and as he raised his bat and the helmet came off he was accompanied by an overwhelming reception at the SCG and a reception that would have been echoed around the country to those who were watching.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Cricket NSW and what they’ve given and the SCG honestly it was the most touching and humbling amazing feeling getting that 100 and the roar that went up along with the chant ‘Uzzie, Uzzie, Uzzie’ as I was coming off the field (it’s) the stuff you dream of”
Khawaja says he’s a different man from the one he was in his previous stint in the Australian Test side. Previously he would be hard on himself as the Australian public has been on him on previous stints where he has been entrusted with a senior batting position in the side and failed to make the runs or the impression required.
Now a father, in the back end of his career and at peace with life, cricket, and with greater perspective, Khawaja is just enjoying every moment and living his own dreams.
“I joke around with the boys about my past and where I’ve come from and we talk about “The American Dream” and I call it the Australian dream, I do joke about it but I am serious I am living The Australian Dream my parents came over here from Pakistan to give me and my family a better life,” he said.
“They have come all the way out here and I am representing Australia in our national sport, something I have loved doing I have gone through a lot of hard times and broken down a lot of barriers to get to where I am right now.
“I think at some level people can relate to that and see it and I love them for it and the love I’ve gotten out here today is something special and something I will never forget”
And living out his Australian Dream is exactly what Khawaja did. Producing another moment of magic and Ashes folklore at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“You never take anything for granted I wasn’t really sure if I would represent Australia again let alone score 100 in a test match for Australia so it’s amazing how life can work out in both ways”
“I have put a lot of hard work in and a lot of time behind the scenes that people don’t see and I have had a lot of support from my family, my parents, and in particular, my wife Rachel a lot has gone on in that time, COVID-19, I’ve had a daughter and Rachel is pregnant with another child so a lot has gone under since I have been dropped”
With tours to the subcontinent on the horizon for Australia in 2022, Khawaja said it would mean the world for him to be selected on the tour to represent his country in his country of birth.
“It would be pretty cool, It would be, it’s somewhere I was born I have been back there a few times and I have made a lot of friends in the PSL when I went back out there,” He said.
“I’ve played in India, I’ve played Bangladesh, I’ve played Sri Lanka and yeah it’s amazing I haven’t played in my country of birth so the opportunity comes so yeah it would be unbelievable”
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