Racial sledging made me strong: Khawaja

Batsman Usman Khawaja says being racially vilified made him determined to succeed

Test cricketer Usman Khawaja has revealed how being racially vilified when he was younger led him to support other countries in international sporting contests and not Australia.

Khawaja was born in Pakistan but settled in Australia with his parents and two older brothers when he was five years-old.

During high school he says he was regularly called a "F---ing curry muncher". Playing cricket and working his way up through the grades wasn't any better.

"Getting sledged by opposition players and their parents was the norm," Khawaja told the PlayersVoice.com website.

"Some of them said it just quietly enough for only me to hear. It still hurt, but I would never show it. Most of the time it was when I scored runs. Some parents take things too seriously.

"It is for this reason why so many of my friends, most of whom were born outside Australia, didn't support Australia in sporting contests. I didn't either.

"Especially in cricket. It was either West Indies, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka. Anyone else. It's probably why Brian Lara was my favourite cricketer."

But the 30-year-old, who made his Australian debut in the 2011 Sydney Test and has played 24 Tests with a batting average of 45.47, said both cricket and society have matured.

"So many times I was told by other sub continental parents, 'You will never make it, you're not the right skin colour'. No joke," he said.

"That might have been true in some respects in past eras and generations, but it just drove me more to prove them all wrong.

"Now subcontinental parents can see a future for their kids, at a younger age. It isn't about making a choice - study or cricket - like my Mum wanted me to do," Khawaja added.

"And I can see it, in the domestic cricketers of all ages that are coming through now, compared to when I started playing and was the only Asian player at first class level in the whole country.

"Now we have Gurinder Sandhu, who is a close friend of mine from Sydney Thunder and represented Australia. Another youngster from the Thunder is Arjun Nair, an excellent young, up-and-coming player.

"Being racially vilified actually made me stronger in many respects," he said.

"So why is there an emergence of multi race players now in Australia? Maybe it was inevitable with the growing multicultural community in Australia. Maybe it was a few friendly faces at the highest level. We will never know.

"What I do know is Australian cricket is slowly changing and will finally have a chance to reflect what Australia really is.

"An international team truly representative of its richly diverse population."