Sydney, Feb.12 : Australia's first class Pura Cup competition will register a first of sorts when Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja becomes the first Muslim player to appear for a state side on Friday.
Twenty-one-year-old Usman will be making his first class debut as an opener for New South Wales against Victoria.
Khawaja, born in Islamabad, arrived in Australia aged four and is believed to be the first Australian Muslim to play interstate cricket.
He said that he is pleased as punch about making his first class debut after rising through the grade structure.
A licensed commercial pilot with a bachelor's degree in aviation from the University of NSW, Khawaja has decided to make cricket his full time career.
"Finally, cricket is No.1. I've been waiting for quite a while to just play cricket, to concentrate on it. It's pretty much perfect timing. I've got nothing else on my mind," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him, as saying.
Australian under-19s coach Brian McFadyen said Usman has been very impressive on the world stage.
In Sydney grade cricket this summer, Khawaja tops the batting figures, garnering 907 runs at 60.47, and he has been invited to the AIS Cricket Centre of Excellence this winter.
Cricket historian Kersi Meher-Homji believes Khawaja is the first local Muslim to play at this level. Mark Lavender, a West Australian batsman of the 1990s, was born in Chennai, India, while Dav Whatmore, born in Sri Lanka, played seven Tests for Australia. "But I think this is a big breakthrough," Meher-Homji said.
Khawaja credits his father Tariq as the biggest influence on his career.
"He can set an example as to how a good citizen from any race or religion can achieve what he wants provided he's got the determination," Tariq Khawaja was quoted, as saying.