Cricketer Usman Khawaja has lived a remarkable life – and after his recent exploits for the Ashes in Sydney, where he looted centuries of Test in successive legs against England, he has once again become a darling in the eyes of the Australian sporting public .
His wife Rachel is no ordinary citizen either – she pledged her love to her husband when they married in 2017 – before making the unusual decision to convert to Islam after being raised as a Catholic.
The decision meant the world for the stylish 35-year-old drummer, who was born in Pakistan in 1986 before emigrating to Australia aged five with his family.
“I was never going to put a gun to Rachel’s head and say you have to convert,” Khawaja told 60 Minutes a few days after the religious ceremony.
“I told her that I would prefer her to convert, but she has to do it on her own. Unless it comes from you, comes from the heart, then there is no point in doing it.
Rachel Khawaja was well aware of the importance of her decision and did so without hesitation as she knew it was important in the eyes of her life partner.
Usman Khawaja (pictured, with daughter Aisha and wife Rachel) – Mrs. Khawaja converted to Islam in 2017 to show her devotion to her husband
The Pakistan-born batsman made his Test debut in 2011 – but hasn’t been able to cement his place in the Australian squad since
Looking for a fresh start, Khawaja moved to Queensland in 2012 in a bid to revive his Testing career
The couple share a daughter, Aisha, and a second child is on the way as the Khawaja family grows.
But life hasn’t always been a fairy tale for the man affectionately known as ‘Ussie’.
A young prodigy, cricket came easy at first for the laid-back Khawaja, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation from the University of New South Wales before making his Test debut in 2011.
After making a name for himself in Sydney Grade Cricket with Randwick-Petersham, Khawaja was named the Australian Under-19 Championship Player in 2005.
He then toured Sri Lanka, where he was a key figure at the 2006 Under-19 World Cup.
A few years later, Khawaja made his long-awaited first-class debut for NSW and quickly became a name national selectors would keep an eye on, after two consecutive centuries for the NSW Second XI.
His ability was never in question, it was Khawaja’s inconsistency in the fold that saw him move interstate to Queensland in 2012 in search of a fresh start .
He’s since embarked on plunder runs and captained the Bulls – but he’s been in and out of the Australian Test squad for over a decade.
Khawaja only played in the recent test at the Sydney Cricket Ground because Travis Head was a late withdrawal after contracting Covid.
He grabbed the unexpected chance with both hands, both shots showing Khawaja at his vintage best.
Some Aussie cricket fans will tell you he hasn’t realized his talent throughout his career to date, but with a batting average of 42.45, the stats tell a different story.
Skilled pilot Khawaja is also often in the spotlight through no fault of his own.
As part of his faith he doesn’t drink alcohol, so when his Aussie team-mates started wildly spraying champagne after winning the Ashes 4-0, he quietly moved to a side in Hobart on Sunday night .
The switch to Queensland paid off, with Khawaja winning the Sheffield Shield – against NSW a few years later
The devoted family man often talks about his wife Rachel and daughter to his social media followers
Captain Pat Cummins was quick to notice Khawaja’s absence and motioned for his teammates to briefly interrupt their loud uproar.
Seconds later, several players waved for Khawaja to join them – minus the drops of champagne.
He then took to Twitter to congratulate his teammates for the heartwarming gesture, posting images of the moment to his social media.
“If this video doesn’t show you guys supporting me, I don’t know what will,” Khawaja captioned the video.
“They stopped their normal champagne celebrations so I could join them. Inclusiveness in the game and our values as a sport are so important.
“I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”
Cummins said it was just one moment the Australian team celebrated the diversity of the group.
“We have a very diverse group of people and you want to celebrate that and you want to make sure everyone feels comfortable being themselves. It was only a moment,” he said.
Khawaja (pictured, left with junior team-mate and close friend David Warner) played a key role in the fourth Test in Sydney – scoring a century in both legs after a three-year exile from the XI
Left-handed batsman Usman Khawaja left Pakistan for Australia aged five (pictured, playing junior cricket in Sydney)
Before making his test debut in 2011, Khawaja earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation from the University of New South Wales, making him a qualified pilot.
“The boys are fantastic in this space. They always watch over each other. It’s a really tight-knit group.
“I think one of the reasons is that there’s a lot of respect and love for each other. We had to make sure our teammate (Khawaja) was in the picture with us.
While Usman’s life has been something to cherish, the same cannot be said for his brother Arsalan Tariq Khawaja.
In 2020, he sobbed outside the NSW District Court and apologized for forcing a colleague to spend a month in jail after jealously accusing him of false terrorism allegations.
Arsalan Khawaja collapsed when he admitted to falsifying entries in fellow UNSW Kamer Nizamdeen’s notebook in August 2018 after becoming jealous of his contact with a friend.
Nizamdeen was later arrested and held in a high security prison until the truth was discovered.
Khawaja was jailed for two and a half years in 2020 before being released on parole in June last year.
Arsalan Khawaja admitted to falsifying entries in his UNSW colleague Kamer Nizamdeen’s notebook in August 2018 after becoming jealous of his contact with a female friend – he was later imprisoned after tricking his colleague into using a fake terror plot
Arsalan Khawaja (pictured right) with Usman Khawaja and his wife Rachel