Usman Khawaja will fight his ICC reprimand for wearing a black armband in the Perth Test. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
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Khawaja insists armband was for ‘personal bereavement’

Oliver Caffrey December 22, 2023

Usman Khawaja insists the black armband he wore during the Perth Test was for a “personal bereavement” after being charged by the International Cricket Council.

The Australian opener will contest the possible reprimand, but will not wear a black armband again during the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan.

Khawaja is in talks with the ICC and Cricket Australia about how to appropriately show his support for those suffering during the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The ICC charged Khawaja on Thursday, four days after the first Test at Optus Stadium ended, for breaching the players’ code of conduct regarding equipment and clothing regulations.

Before that match, Khawaja wrote on his boots “All lives are equal” and “Freedom is a human right”.

But Khawaja was warned against displaying those messages, and he taped over his shoes before play.

However, the 37-year-old went out to bat with a black armband on day one and wore it during the entire Test.

“They (ICC) asked me on day two what it (black armband) was for and I told them it was for a personal bereavement,” Khawaja said at the MCG on Friday.

“I never ever stated it was for anything else. 

“The shoes were a different matter, I’m happy to say that. 

 Usman Khawaja wore a black armband in the Perth Test and was reprimanded by the ICC. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

“The armband makes no sense to me.”

Khawaja was confused by past incidents of players displaying messages but not being punished by the ICC.

If he is unsuccessful in challenging the charge, he would only receive a reprimand as a first offence and is at no risk of being suspended.

“I respect what the ICC (says) and the rules and regulations they have,” Khawaja said.

“I will be asking them and contesting they make it fair and equitable for everyone and they have consistency in how they officiate. 

“That consistency hasn’t been done yet.”

Khawaja gave thoughtful answers when explaining why he wanted to display the messages on his shoes.

The left-hander said he doesn’t have “any agendas”.

“What I wrote on my shoes, I thought about it for a while,” Khawaja said.

“I made sure I didn’t want to segregate different parts of the population; religious beliefs and communities. 

“I wanted it to be really broad because I’m speaking about humanitarian issues. 

“The reason I’m doing it is because it hit me hard.”

Usman Khawaja (left) and Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley
 Usman Khawaja (left) and Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley face the media at the MCG. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Khawaja said he had felt supported by Cricket Australia and its chief executive Nick Hockley during the saga, which started on the eve of the Test summer.

“When I’m looking at my Instagram and seeing innocent kids, videos of them dying, passing away, that’s what hit me the hardest,” the 67-Test veteran said.

“I just imagine my young daughter in my arms … I get emotional talking about it again. 

“I don’t have any hidden agendas. If anything, this brings up more negativity towards me. 

“I don’t get anything out of this.”

Hockley labelled the situation “complex”. 

“All I can say is that discussions with ‘Uzzy’ have been really constructive and I think they’re really respectful,” he said.

“We’re also very conscious that people want to come and really just enjoy and watch the cricket.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has even weighed in on the situation

“Usman Khawaja is a great Australian cricketer and the position he put forward is one that I think is pretty uncontroversial,” he told reporters on Friday.

“One that all lives are equal is a sentiment that I think is uncontroversial, and I think that he’s someone who plays a really important role for Australian cricket. 

“Usman Khawaja made his position clear, which is he didn’t see it as a political statement.”