Australian batter Usman Khawaja admits he was struggling for motivation as PM praises ‘courageous’ stance


Australian batter Usman Khawaja has revealed he was struggling for motivation and sought professional help to deal with his human rights concerns.

Since the days before last month’s series opener against Pakistan, Khawaja has been lobbying to voice his support for those affected by ongoing conflict in the Middle East, first by writing “all lives are equal” and “freedom is a human right” on his shoes.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) barred Khawaja from displaying the phrases during the Perth Test on the grounds that international players are prohibited from wearing personal messages on their uniforms.

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The veteran opening batter eventually taped over the messages, but the ICC charged him for breaching clothing and equipment regulations with the black armband he wore instead.

Khawaja did not wear the armband in the second Test at the MCG from Boxing Day and had hoped to display a dove holding an olive branch on his bat, but this too was banned by the ICC.

Khawaja, who has received widespread support from current and former Test players, wrote the names of his daughters on his shoes in the MCG Test in place of the original messages.

Speaking to Fox Cricket on Monday night, Khawaja admitted he was deeply affected by the issue and sought help from a psychologist.

“I don’t do these things on a whim – this is something that has affected me for a long time,’’ he said.

The dove symbol on Khawaja’s shoe ahead of the Boxing Day Test. Credit: 7NEWS

“I was playing Sheffield Shield cricket before the Test series and I was really lacking motivation. I talked to my wife Rachel, I talked to our sports psychologist Brent Membrey and Cricket Australia and told them I really am struggling for motivation right now.

“When I see all these people, particularly innocent kids, dying and I see videos of that happening it really has an effect on me. Going out and playing cricket just seemed so insignificant and I’m really struggling with it.

“It had a big impact on me. I thought long and hard about what I could do and how I could do it without segregating and pushing people aside.’’

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has praised Khawaja’s courage as he addressed the Australian and Pakistani teams at Kirribilli House during his annual New Year’s Day reception before the SCG Test.

“I’d like to congratulate (Khawaja) for the courage he has shown standing up for human values,” Mr Albanese said.

“He has shown courage, and the fact that the team has backed him in is a great thing.”

Australian PM Anthony Albanese heaped praise on Khawaja. Credit: CRICKET AUSTRALIA/PR IMAGE

This week’s Test match will be Khawaja’s last batting with opening partner David Warner, who is hanging up his baggy green at the conclusion of the match, which begins on Wednesday.

“When Ussie and Dave go out, it will be a very special moment, when you walk on to the SCG,” Mr Albanese said.

The pair of childhood friends have formed a formidable duo at the top of the order since Khawaja’s recall to the Test team during the home Ashes series two summers ago

Warner became emotional speaking about Khawaja in his pre-match press conference on Monday.

“Just to see him come back the way he has the last two years has been absolutely amazing,” Warner said.

“I know his family are really, really proud of him. I’m really, really proud of him as a mate.

“When you’re childhood friends dreaming big and you get to go out here at the SCG, it’s fitting.”

– With AAP

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