cricket star, Usman Khawaja, knows what it’s like to combine a demanding
sports career with university; during matches, when he wasn’t on the
field, he used to hole up in the change rooms to study.
“It was basically the
only time I had during the weekends … I was also training almost every
day,” says the 24-year-old of the three years he spent studying
full-time at UNSW while simultaneously making his way up the competitive
Now the left-hander,
who made his much-publicised Test debut earlier this year as the first
Muslim to play for Australia, is back with UNSW, but in a very different
As the University’s
first Global Ambassador he’ll be juggling an international cricket
career with trips, functions, speaking engagements and campus visits to
promote UNSW through his own experiences.
“It’s not a hard
sell,” he says. “I just have to give an honest account of how much I
enjoyed my time at UNSW. I knew I wanted to do something and this seemed
like a good thing to do.”
Usman says university
“was so much fun” and as a Pakistani-born Australian there “were no
barriers for any culture at UNSW”.
Usman’s résumé reads
like one long “dream run” – if you don’t know the back story. He says he
realised at high school that he didn’t want to get stuck behind a desk,
and although cricket always “came first” he also knew he wanted a
university qualification to keep his future career options open.
“I had travelled
around quite a bit with my parents when I was younger and flying always
appealed to me – although I never thought I’d actually do it,” he says.
But, after performing strongly in the Higher School Certificate, Usman
was accepted into UNSW’s Bachelor of Aviation (Flying) program, his
first preference and a course with both an international reputation and
its own training planes.
Only a month after
graduating, he debuted for the NSW Blues, aged 21, and after progressing
to the Australian squad he filled injured captain, Ricky Ponting’s,
number three batting spot in the fifth Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket
Ground, to positive reviews.
Now he’s been signed to
play for Derbyshire in the UK, during the Australian off-season.
The Australian media
made much of Usman’s religion during his Test debut, which didn’t
surprise or worry him.
“It was so far in the
back of my own mind. All I could think about was representing Australia
– that’s not something you can expect to do, you just have to go out and
do your best. It was a dream come true.”
And then he received a
message congratulating him from the Vice- Chancellor of UNSW, Professor
Fred Hilmer, which triggered a series of discussions “about what he
could do for UNSW”.
(International) Jennie Lang was one of those involved in the later
“The University is
delighted to have Usman as our first Global Ambassador,” says Lang.
“He’s an outstanding graduate and embodies UNSW’s values at the highest
“As the face of the
Global Citizens 360° X 365 Program, Usman will promote participation in
international education exchanges, as well as encouraging students to
take part in co- curricular activities such as sporting and cultural
programs that foster teamwork,” she says.
As for Usman, he sees
the role as a help in any post-cricket career.
“You know I have never
had a ‘proper job’ so I think it will build some useful extra skills,”
he says of the UNSW Global Ambassador’s role.
“I would love to play
cricket professionally for a long time. At the moment the future is an
open book. But down the track I will always have my degree, so I will