Home » Where is our next Uzzie? Why hasn’t cricket made the most of its fastest growing migrant group?

Where is our next Uzzie? Why hasn’t cricket made the most of its fastest growing migrant group?

“I really felt like CA needed perspective from people in the community and myself, who’d gone through emigrating from another country with my family, coming through the ranks of white Australian cricket. All my friends growing up in cricket when I was younger, they were all races, but as I got further into the system they were all white cricketers, and I was the one who stood out.”

At local levels, particularly in areas like the western suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, huge south Asian populations have, in many cases, become the lifeblood of local junior and community teams, without much sense of a parallel change at the top levels.

Reeve Bal Pannu, 14, is a junior star in Werribee and has been shortlisted for Victoria’s under-15s. His heroes include Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell, and he is also grateful for the path trodden by Khawaja.

“It surely does – it gives me the confidence to grow into playing at a higher level,” he said of the inspiration provided by Khawaja’s career. “I started playing cricket from watching my dad, I used to go to his games and his friends and teammates were very good to me.

“And the society in the west is pretty good, the south Asian community are always helping me in my cricket journey. I’ve played at different levels of cricket, reps, Victoria, and I’m looking forward to wearing the baggy green in the future too.”


That optimism is shared by Reeve’s mother, Ruby, who migrated to Australia more than 20 years ago and has herself become a committed volunteer administrator in community cricket. But she can also see the kind of “glass ceiling” concern that Khawaja has witnessed, and that the figures bear out.

“From the grassroots, you can see the amount of talent that’s coming from this region, but as we go up, it’s not the case,” Ruby said. “Nearly 80 per cent of the teams [in western Melbourne] are south Asian communities.

“As you go up and up you don’t see that representation. At the grassroots we’re dominating, but at the top we’re not sure what’s happening. Deep down I hope [Reeve] will only be judged on his talent.”

Rana Hussain, who worked on the action plan over two years at CA, said that it had been imperative for the governing body to get to work while Khawaja was still a visible presence at the top of the game.

Reeve Bal Pannu with his dad Bunty, mum Ruby, 11-year-old brother Reeyo and their dog Reeco.Credit: Joe Armao

Equally, it was vital to understand the challenges he faced and use those lessons to make life easier for generations like Reeve’s.

“Part of it was making clear to CA that now is the time to do this,” she said.

“We’ve got Usman; an established name who is really respected and a lot of our communities look to him as the example of what’s possible.


“We run the risk of saying ‘Usman’s done it, so it’s possible’ and sitting back. He’s done it despite all these things, and it just doesn’t have to be that hard.”

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