Even as the Australian cricket team jubilantly celebrated its win in the series against England, the captain Pat Cummins showed the presence of mind of a true leader. As is customary, the team members grouped together to pop open their champagne bottles for a champagne shower.
Knowing that the team’s festivities would include this method of celebrating, the only Muslim team member Usman Khawaja kept himself away because he does not touch alcohol. The tall fast bowler Pat Cummins who is leading the side noticed Usman standing away from the rest of the group.
He motioned to his teammates to put away their bottles and withhold the champagne shower. Then he waved to Usman and asked him to join the rest of the team on the dais. Seeing his captain’s gesture, the jubilant Usman ran up and jumped onto the stage to join the rest of the team. Happily the Australians all smiled and posed for the photographers, but kept aside their champagne bottles.
The captain’s gesture of stopping a traditional and customary way of celebrating so as to include one member, whose religion forbade alcohol, was widely appreciated by viewers. Social media was flooded with messages of thanks and appreciation for the decision by Pat Cummins. “Usman is Muslim, so he doesn’t like the champagne being thrown,” Pat Cummins told reporters. “I just made sure he got up there and no champagne was thrown.”
On 26 November 2021, Pat Cummins was announced as the 47th captain of the Australian Test squad and was the first Aussie fast bowler to be given that honour. Whereas 35 year old Usman Khawaja was born in Islamabad, Pakistan and emigrated to Australia with his family members when he was 5 years old.
Usman became the first Australian of Pakistani origin to represent Australia when he made his debut in the Ashes series in 2010-11. He is a qualified commercial pilot, having completed a bachelor’s degree in aviation before he made his Test debut. With two centuries in the fourth Test of this series, Usman played a key role in Australia’s triumph. It was a fitting tribute that the captain of the Australian side decided to set aside a tradition for the sake of his Muslim teammate.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.