“So when I became captain in 2014, the big thing for me was one, making sure that we were producing good people and good cricketers playing for Australia, but at the same time having a really good culture. Wade Seccombe was really good with this too – ‘better men make better Bulls’, that’s a big thing for us.”
One of the things Khawaja has worked hard at over several years is to encourage conversations about race and diversity not only within the Bulls dressing room, but also elsewhere. His efforts have helped create an environment in which others may flourish – not least the recent recruit Gurinder Sandhu.
“When I used to go up to northern Queensland when I first moved, I was a bit taken aback by what was going on and being said by people up there – I found it really off,” Khawaja said. “So for me, it was just about, even amongst the group of Queensland cricketers, bringing more presence, more awareness. Once I got into a leadership role, a lot of the guys were asking me more questions about certain things.
“My wife Rachael, when we first started seeing each other, and started discussing religion, she realised I’m very Aussie. I love to joke around, I take the piss as much as everyone, I bully the boys, I’m there bantering a lot of the time, I don’t shut up. Back in NSW, I took the piss out of myself and I still do, and try to explain that to the boys.”
Asked about racism itself, a vexed topic for English cricket this year but also one that needs continual address in Australia, Khawaja gave a crisp and clear explanation of how it can be tackled within a team context.
“At the end of the day it’s all about intention, what your intentions are,” he said. “So when we’re talking about racial vilification, I’m like, ‘All you have to understand is how the other person takes what you say to them’. So, you might think you’re saying something that’s fine, but if they take offence to it, then that’s the line. That’s also why you never know what the line is and have to be very careful when you’re talking to people and talking about these topics.
“We’ve had some very good conversations in Queensland in general. The guys that are coming up in the group now, I honestly couldn’t think of any better guys I’d rather play with. Not only in terms of the staff, but the blokes in the team, the younger generation, they’re tip-top. I’m so proud to be captain of these guys with Queensland because I love what they stand for.”
It’s these views, and these progressions, that Khawaja and Fawad will be seeking to bring to the ranks of the game’s administration.