Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja to contest ICC reprimand over 'personal' armband

This came after he was prevented from displaying the messages 'Freedom is a human right' and 'All lives are equal' in the colours of the Palestinian flag

By Reuters

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Fri 22 Dec 2023, 8:24 AM

Last updated: Fri 22 Dec 2023, 11:21 PM

Australia's Usman Khawaja said on Friday the black armband he wore in the test match against Pakistan was for a "personal bereavement" and he would contest the International Cricket Council's (ICC) reprimand.

The Pakistan-born opener was reprimanded by cricket's global governing body on Thursday for wearing the armband during the 360-run win over Pakistan in the series-opener in Perth.

That came after he was prevented by ICC rules from displaying the messages 'Freedom is a human right' and 'All lives are equal' in the colours of the Palestinian flag on his boots for the match at Perth Stadium.

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Khawaja told reporters he would take up the reprimand with the ICC and that he only wanted consistency in the application of its rules.

"I told them it was for a personal bereavement. I never ever stated it was for anything else. The shoes were a different matter, I'm happy to say that," the 37-year-old said at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"But the armband (decision) made no sense to me.

"I respect ... the ICC and the rules and regulations they have.

"I just asked - and will be asking them and contesting that they make it fair and equitable for everyone and they have consistency in how they officiate. That's all I ask for."

An ICC spokesman on Thursday said Khawaja had displayed a "personal message" against Pakistan without seeking prior approval from Cricket Australia (CA) and the ICC as required.

'Respective way'

Khawaja said players had displayed personal messages during past matches without ICC approval and not been sanctioned.

"Guys have put stickers on their bats, names on their shoes and all sorts of things in the past without ICC approval and never been reprimanded," said Khawaja, adding he would not wear the armband again.

"From my point of view, that consistency hasn't been done yet."

Khawaja has been vocal on social media with calls for an end to the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, where nearly 20,000 Gazans have been killed since the start of the war with Israel, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to eradicate Hamas, that sent fighters over the border into southern Israel on Oct. 7, taking some 240 hostages and killing 1,200 people.

Cricket Australia did not endorse Khawaja's boots or his armband but CEO Nick Hockley said it was working with him and the ICC to see whether there was a "really respectful way" the batsman could share his message on field.

"That is the subject now of ICC consideration," Hockley told a press conference alongside Khawaja.

The second test against Pakistan starts at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday.

The ICC has been selective about allowing players to wear political messages during matches.

West Indies players were permitted to wear 'Black Lives Matter' logos on their shirts during a test series against England in 2020.

England's Moeen Ali, however, was banned from wearing wristbands with messages 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' during a home test against India in 2014.

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