Australia captain Pat Cummins backs Usman Khawaja on Gaza views

Khawaja has been denied permission by the ICC to have a sticker showing a black dove holding an olive branch on his bat and shoes during the second Test against Pakistan

Australia captain Pat Cummins. left, and Usman Khawaja take part in a nets session at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 25, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. Getty Images
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Australia captain Pat Cummins threw his support behind star opener Usman Khawaja Monday, saying his bid to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was "not offensive".

Khawaja has been denied permission by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to have a sticker showing a black dove holding an olive branch on his bat and shoes during the second Test against Pakistan.

The logo, which he displayed during training on Sunday, also had the words 01:UDHR – a reference to Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – written on it.

The 36-year-old, a Muslim, was stopped from wearing shoes emblazoned with the hand-written slogans "Freedom is a human right" and "All lives are equal" during the first Test in Perth.

The ICC said they flouted its rules on messages that relate to politics, religion or race.

"We really support Uzzy. He's standing up for what he believes and I think he's done it really respectfully," Cummins told reporters on the eve of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

"As I said last week, 'All lives are equal', I don't think that's very offensive and I'd say the same about the dove.

"That's Uzzy. I think he can really hold his head high with the way he's gone about it.

"But obviously there's rules in place and I believe the ICC have said they're not going to approve that. They make up the rules and you've got to accept it."

Khawaja wore a black armband during the Perth Test and was reprimanded by the ICC, but insisted it was for a "personal bereavement" and not politically-motivated.

Last week, he spoke about how the Israel-Hamas conflict had affected him.

"When I'm looking at my Instagram and seeing innocent kids, videos of them dying, passing away, that's what hit me the hardest," he said.

"I don't have any agendas other than trying to shine a light on what I feel really passionately, really strongly about."

Australia named an unchanged XI for the second Test against Pakistan, but the touring side replaced veteran stumper Sarfaraz Ahmed with Mohammad Rizwan for the second match of the three-Test series.

Scott Boland missed out on his home ground as Australia retained the pace trio of captain Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who bowled them to a comprehensive victory in the opening Test in Perth.

"We're a huge fan of Scotty, I don't think that's a secret," Cummins told reporters on Monday.

"It's very rare that you're going to get through seven Test matches with the same [fast] bowling line-up. There's always niggles or things that pop up.

"He's ready to go if anything happens, so I'm sure he'll play a part at some point.

"The message [to Boland] is always 'We love what you're bringing, unfortunately you miss out on this one but don't change ... and stay ready'."

Pakistan would confirm their playing XI only at the toss on Tuesday but Sarfaraz has been dropped after managing seven runs in Perth.

Skipper Shan Masood said Rizwan, an attacking batter, needed time to shift to red-ball cricket, which was a key factor in playing Sarfaraz in the opening Test.

"We think Rizwan is ready and we can give Sarfaraz a little bit of a break to recoup and come back," Masood told reporters.

"It was more of a tactical decision in terms of the conditions and getting the best out of each player in those conditions."

Pakistan's bowling looked depleted as they seek to level the series in Melbourne.

Noman Ali has been ruled out of the last two matches having undergone appendicitis surgery, while fellow spinner Abrar Ahmed will continue to sit out with a leg injury he suffered during a tour game.

With a recovering Naseem Shah still not fit for action and Haris Rauf opting out of the series, the lack of firepower in their pace attack has also been a major concern for Pakistan.

Updated: December 25, 2023, 9:00 AM