EXPLAINED: Why Usman Khawaja Cannot Play 1st Test Vs Pakistan With 'Pro Palestine' Message On His Shoes Usman Khawaja. (Image: X/ANI)

Australian opening batter Usman Khawaja was seen training with a special pair of shoes , a few days before the first Test against Pakistan at Perth. There was nothing special in the shoes in terms of quality or looks. The shoes had ‘All Lives Are Equal’ message written on them. Australia’s photojournalists zoomed into the shoes and clicked the photos which went viral on internet. Usman was set to play the first Test wearing them, causing a huge uproar in his country and on social media.

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The opinions were divided on Khawaja’s act of making a ‘political’ statement of sorts. Some ridiculed the decision, saying that such messaging has no place in sport, that personal opinions should be kept outside the cricket field. At the same time, others felt that Khawaja was not saying something controversial but calling for restoration of peace in war-torned Palestine as the war against Israel continues.

After some days of heavy discussion, Cricket Australia (CA) sent a release to the media, clearly stating that Khawaja would be stopped from taking the field on Day 1 of the Test if he carries any political messaging to the ground. 

The press release said, “We support the right of our players to express personal opinions. But the ICC has rules in place which prohibit the display of personal messages which we expect the players to uphold.”

Looks like CA expects Usman Khawaja to refrain from wearing the shoes. #AUSvPAK pic.twitter.com/7y3GPkEWGW
— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) December 13, 2023

Pat Cummins, Australia captain, then came out in the pre-match press conference and said that Khawaja will not be wearing those shoes in the Test match, putting an end to the whole debate.

Why Khawaja has been asked to not wear the shoes with political messaging?

Khawaja or any other cricketer cannot enter the playing field with anything political message. In 2014, England’s Moeen Ali had played a Test match with ‘Save Gaza’ written on his wrist banned and was told to take it out subsequently by International Cricket Council (ICC). 

The ICC has a strict regulation in place in regards to clothing and equipment. As per ICC’s regulations: “Any clothing or equipment that does not comply with these regulations is strictly prohibited..in particular, no logo shall be permitted to be displayed on cricket clothing or cricket equipment, other than a national logo, a commercial logo, an event logo, a manufacturer’s.”

“In addition, where any match official becomes aware of any clothing or equipment that does not comply with these regulations, he shall be authorised to prevent the offending person from taking the field of play (or to order them from the field of play, if appropriate) until the non-compliant clothing or equipment is removed or appropriately covered up.”

The first Test is being officiated by India’s Javagal Srinath. If Khawaja had attempted to play with the ‘political message’ shoes, Srinath had every right to stop him from taking the field as he would be ensuring the ICC rules are not played with. 

It must also be mentioned that Indian cricket team played with camouflage caps as a mark of tribute to the Pulwama attack martyrs. ESPNcricinfo reports that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had approached ICC to take permission to play with the ‘special caps’ in the Ranchi ODI in 2019.

In 2023 World Cup, a controversy erupted when Mohammad Rizwan dedicated his match-winning knock vs Sri Lanka to ‘brothers and sisters in Gaza’ on social media. Other Pakistan players too had posted social media posts supporting Gaza amid the war vs Israel. However, ICC had no issues with it as all of this was done outside the field on the personal accounts of the cricketers.

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