Usman Khawaja
Usman Khawaja was warmly greeted by Pakistan players at training on the eve of the Boxing Day Test. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
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Cummins offers support for Khawaja’s banned dove symbol

Shayne Hope December 25, 2023

Australian captain Pat Cummins has again backed Usman Khawaja, declaring there is little difference between the star opener’s banned dove symbol and the eagle Marnus Labuschagne has on his bat.

Khawaja had hoped to use images of a dove holding an olive branch, as well as a reference to article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on one of his boots and bat in the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan.

The plan was part of Khawaja’s renewed push to raise awareness for what he sees as a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The left-handed run machine had support from Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association, but his application was denied by the ICC on Sunday.

Pat Cummins
 Pat Cummins says Usman Khawaja can hold his head high. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Cummins on Monday described the dove symbol as “pretty vanilla” and said it was “not really” any different to observant Christian Labuschagne’s eagle, which represents a Bible verse.

“We really support Uzzy. He’s standing up for what he believes and I think he’s done it really respectfully,” Cummins said.

“(His initial message was) ‘all lives are equal’ and I don’t think that’s very offensive, and I’d say the same about the dove.

“That’s Uzzy. I think he can really hold his head high with the way he’s gone about it.

“But obviously there’s rules in place and I believe the ICC have said they’re not going to approve that. They make up the rules and you’ve got to accept it.”

Khawaja was previously charged by the ICC for breaching its clothing and equipment regulations after he wore a black armband without permission during the first Test in Perth.

He wore the armband – which he has since stated was to mark a “personal bereavement” – after he was told wearing shoes with the words “all lives are equal” and “freedom is a human right” would breach ICC rules.

Khawaja was wearing plain black shoes and was greeted warmly by members of the Pakistan team as players from both sides went through light training sessions indoors at the MCG on Monday.

Usman Khawaja
 Usman Khawaja wore plain black shoes at Australia’s family-friendly session on Christmas Day. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Cummins’ support for Khawaja comes as Australia prepare to roll out an unchanged line-up for the Boxing Day clash, eyeing an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

Victorian hero Scott Boland has shone at the MCG in each of the past two summers, but has been unable to force his way back into the team for his home Test this time around.

The Australians are hot favourites after a dominant 360-run victory in Perth, and wet weather may yet prove the biggest obstacle to continuing their winning ways in Melbourne.

Pat Cummins
 Preparing to lead an unchanged team, Pat Cummins takes some time out at training on Monday. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

“It looks like there might be a little bit of rain about for the first day or so, but Test matches here seem to have moved a little bit quicker than at other places in the last few years,” Cummins said.

“So I think there will be plenty of time to finish the game. I don’t think it (the weather) will change anything.

“(The wicket) looks pretty good. Fair bit of grass, probably a little bit harder and not as green as last year, knowing that it’s potentially going to be under covers today and a little bit tomorrow.

“We’ll see how it plays, but it looks like a really good wicket.”

Pakistan are set to make at least two changes, with pace bowler Khurram Shahzad (ribs) out injured and wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed axed after the tourists’ demolition in Perth.

The gloveman has been replaced by Mohammad Rizwan, who made a half-century in the drawn tour match against a Victorian XI last week.

Mohammad Rizwan
 Mohammad Rizwan is set to come into Pakistan’s team for the second Test. Image by AP PHOTO 

Pakistan will confirm the final make-up of their team at the coin toss and haven’t given up hope of challenging their world-champion hosts.

“This is a huge opportunity for all of us,” Pakistan captain Shan Masood said.

“Any kind of setback provides you with the biggest opportunity to do well and get things right.

“It’s a testament to this squad that they’re looking to find ways to do well, to bounce back and put in a good performance. That’s all we care about.”