Australia name first Muslim player in Test squad
Batsman Usman Khawaja became the first Muslim named in an Australian Test squad on Tuesday as selectors announced a 14-strong party for the two-match series against Pakistan, the country of his birthcricket Updated: Jun 22, 2010 11:25 IST
Batsman Usman Khawaja became the first Muslim named in an Australian Test squad on Tuesday as selectors announced a 14-strong party for the two-match series against Pakistan, the country of his birth.
Left-handed Khawaja, 23, admitted feeling "shocked" after being brought in for the July Tests in England, which were moved from Pakistan over security problems including last year's extremist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus.
"I was a bit shocked, I had a feeling I was close but that could mean absolutely nothing," he said. "The feeling didn't really sink in straight away but I've told my family and they're really excited."
Islamabad-born Khawaja now has the chance to become the first Muslim player to wear Australia's famed Baggy Green cap as a full Test player, and just months before the much-anticipated Ashes series against England.
Chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said Khawaja had earned his place after strong performances for his domestic side New South Wales, scoring 698 runs including three centuries last season.
"Usman Khawaja has been selected on the back of some very strong Sheffield Shield performances," Hilditch said.
"He is seen... as being capable of batting anywhere in the order in Test cricket, but importantly for this particular series a top-order batsman who could bat in the top four should the opportunity arise."
Fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, considered a key player for the Ashes series starting in November, also returns after missing the March tour of New Zealand with knee tendonitis. "Ben was a critical member of our 2009 Ashes bowling group and it is very pleasing to see him back in the Test squad with the next Ashes series just around the corner," Hilditch said.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was also tentatively included despite fitness doubts over an elbow tendon problem, with his progress to be monitored until the squad's departure late next week.
Australia will play two Tests against Pakistan at Lord's (July 13-17) and Headingley (July 21-25).
Squad: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice-captain), Doug Bollinger, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Usman Khawaja, Marcus North, Steven Smith, Shane Watson.