Usman Khawaja has finally flown out to India after having his visa approved, 24 hours after his Test teammates departed. However the situation has highlighted a sad truth for the Aussie cricket star.
The Pakistan-born batter was left stranded on Wednesday when his Test teammates flew out to India for their upcoming four-match series. Khawaja took to social media to reveal his visa hadn't been granted in time to fly out with the rest of the squad and said he was 'stranded'.
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On Thursday morning, India’s High Commissioner to Australia Manpreet Vohra revealed that Khawaja's visa had eventually been “issued and collected from our Consulate General in Melbourne”. He added: “Let’s have a great #BorderGavaskarTrophy series!”
Khawaja departed from Sydney airport on Thursday morning and will link up with the rest of the Aussie Test squad in India. But the situation has exposed a sad reality that Khawaja has faced before in his career.
In 2011 he vented his frustrations that he hadn't permitted to enter India to play in the T20 Champions League for NSW because he was not born in Australia. However he has been cleared to enter the country in other formats on other occasions.
He toured with the Test team in 2013 and also represented Rising Pune Supergiant in the 2016 edition of the IPL. The Queensland player also toured India with Australia A in 2018, and went again with the national ODI team in 2019.
The visa process for entry into India usually asks applicants whether they or their parents are of Pakistani origin. Approval into India can be often be complex and time-consuming, but every other member of Australia's 18-man squad were reportedly granted their visas in early January.
On Wednesday, Khawaja posted a popular meme from Netflix show 'Narcos' on Instagram, along with the hashtags 'stranded', 'dontleaveme', 'standard' and 'anytimenow'. A Cricket Australia official said they were aware of the situation and were hopeful Khawaja would be approved for entry into India imminently.
Cricket fans and commentators hit out over the situation on social media. Veteran journalist Malcolm Conn tweeted: "This is ridiculous. Khawaja is Australian". Others described it as "sad" and "disgraceful".
— Syed (@syedahmed84) February 1, 2023
— Farid Khan (@_FaridKhan) February 1, 2023
Sad if you applied at the same time as the rest it’s kind of sad.
— Nathan Johnson (@NathanJ66275550) February 1, 2023
Ridiculous if you don’t get it you should all come back until you do
— Browse Hosking (@Browssieboy) February 1, 2023
Disgraceful situation. Just knock a couple of double tons.
— Sporting Badger (@LostInTheSmog) February 1, 2023
Usman Khawaja's incredible resurgence in Test cricket
Khawaja has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in the Aussie side over the last 12 months, culminating in him being awarded the men's Test player of the year at the Australian Cricket Awards on Monday night. The 36-year-old scored 1020 runs at an average of 78.46 in the voting period - the most by any Aussie Test player.
Remarkably, Khawaja only came back into the Test side when Travis Head was forced to miss the fourth Test against England in last summer's Ashes series. He smacked back-to-back centuries in that game at the SCG and hasn't looked back.
“I honestly thought that game at the SCG … I always thought it could be my last game. I was playing it as my last game,” Khawaja said in his acceptance speech on Monday night. “It’s funny when you play with that kind of mindset how things can actually work out. I was just worried about getting off the mark and doing the process right and trying to win the game for the team. Life’s very funny at times.”
Khawaja also made 97, 160, 44 not out, 92 and 104 not out during Australia's historic tour of his home country Pakistan last year. “Obviously I was born in Pakistan. I know what it means to Pakistan cricket," he said.
"I know what it means to Pakistan. I know what it means to my dad because I grew up and I saw what the passion he had for cricket and supporting Pakistan and now Australia. For the guys to do that, I think speaks volumes for the team and where we’re headed.”
Khawaja was also named in the ICC's world Test team of the year alongside teammates Pat Cummins, Marnus Labuschagne and Nathan Lyon. Australia's four-Test series against India kicks off on February 9, with matches in Nagpur, Delhi, Dharamshala and Ahmedabad.
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