Australia batsman Usman Khawaja says his Pakistani background meant he was stereotyped as being “lazy”.
Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, became the first Muslim to play Test cricket for Australia when he made his debut against England in 2011.
“I always had that ‘lazy’ undertone when I was growing up,” he said.
“I think part of that was my relaxed nature but part of it was also because I was Pakistani, and subcontinent people were seen as lazy.”
Speaking to cricket.com.au, the 33-year-old left-handed batsman added: “Running has never been natural to me, so when we used to do lots of fitness testing I wasn’t as good as everyone else.
“When you put that against where I was from, that did play against me.
“I like to think we’re starting to move on from that, but there’s definitely still that undertone. I still hear [similar stereotypes], if someone’s a bit different.”
Khawaja was the only Asian playing at first-class level in Australia when he first played for New South Wales.
He has been asked to join a Cricket Australia working group looking at increasing diversity in the game.
“If you look at the landscape in terms of multicultural cricketers around, we’ve got a few subcontinental cricketers – myself, Gurinder [Sandhu], Arjun Nair, Jason Sangha and Tanveer Sangha coming up through the ranks [but] we’ve still got a long way to go.”
One of the issues he will be hoping to address is “people getting disheartened if they get racially vilified when they’re coming up through the ranks”.
He added: “The racism has been both overt and casual but I had the confidence to speak up when something didn’t feel right, and I know not everyone does.
“Kids need to be given support. We need to let them know, ‘Hey, you’re not the only person going through this, we’ve been through this, we’ve seen this, we’ve dealt with it and we’ve pushed on. You can do the same thing’.”