Revered Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly releases a studio recording of his track Khawaja – a song celebrating the achievements of cricketing hero Usman Khawaja. The song was originally posted on Youtube in 2022 and has since become even more consequential as Usman celebrated his maiden test century on UK soil and man of the match honours as part of the Australian teams thrilling win of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston in June. Alongside this track release, a stunning picture book based on the song is also released today via Penguin Randomhouse. Illustrated by accomplished Sri-Lankan/Australian illustrator and cartoonist Avinash Weerasekera, the book is based on the words from Kelly’s track.
Usman Khawaja, the first Muslim and first Pakistani-born Australian to receive an Australian Cricket Test baggy green cap, inspired the nation with his return to the Australian Test team in 2022 for the fourth Ashes Test at the SCG. After losing his spot in 2019, Khawaja went to work with undeniable performances in domestic cricket, never giving up and earning his unlikely re-call to the national side. What happened next is legend, a century in each innings, joining Doug Walters and Ricky Ponting as only the third player in Test history to achieve the feat at the SCG.
An avid test cricket fan, Paul Kelly was inspired to write a song celebrating Khawaja’s extraordinary story. He says: “I’ve always loved the way Usman Khawaja bats. Hemingway’s famous description of courage as ‘grace under pressure’ could have been written for him. There’s grace in his stroke-making and in the way he dealt with being in and out of the team, sometimes unfairly, over many years.
The song jumped into my head on the last day of his twin-ton game against England at the SCG in January 2022. It pretty much wrote itself, helped by a melody from a seventy-year-old Hank Williams song, and I sang it into my phone straight away. I wanted the new recording to have the simple, unadorned style of that original phone version. No frills. Like the way Uzzie bats. The illustrations by Avinash Weerasekera to the words of the song are brilliant. The book looks really good. I hope people have fun with it, with the pictures, words and singing!”