Usman Khawaja opted against writing on his shoes to get his message out but he sported a black armband when the First Test got underway on Thursday as a way of highlighting his “humanitarian message” of peace.
Khawaja was interviewed prior to opening the batting for Australia after Pat Cummins won the toss and said he was disappointed the ICC had prevented him from displaying handwritten slogans “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” on his shoes.
The left-handed batter is trying to spread awareness about the thousands of innocent lives lost in the latest Gaza dispute between Palestine and Israel. He had written his messages on his shoes at Australia’s training session earlier this week.
“I don’t really see the controversy of ‘all lives matter’ and saying ‘freedom is a human right’. I don’t see where it becomes political,” he said on Fox Cricket.
“I find it hard to accept where people find what I said distasteful. No one is ever going to agree with everyone and I accept that. It makes me uneasy that people find those words uneasy.
“It has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster the last couple of months. It is what it is. I’ll always stand up for what I believe in, even if people don’t agree with me or they don’t like me saying it.
“I want to look back on my career and say I stood up for my values, I respect what I did on the field but I also respect myself for what I did off the field. That to me at some level, probably at the most level, means more.”
When asked about the ICC response being delivered to him to say he couldn’t go through with his plans, he said it was frustrating.
“I just think that so much has happened in the past that sets a precedent,” Khawaja said.
“I mean full support of Black Lives Matter. There’s plenty of guys who have written on their shoes before.
“Other guys have religious things on their equipment and under the ICC guidelines, that’s not technically allowed, but the ICC never says anything on that.
“So I find it a little disappointing that they came down hard on me and they don’t always come down hard on everyone else. That was probably the most frustrating part.
“But at the end of the day I can’t really do anything about it. All I can do is fight it, appropriately, and however I can. I’m not going to get emotional because there’s already enough emotion in this.
“I’m not doing this for any other reason than to spread the word and to speak for those who don’t have a voice. I always came in with good intentions and I’ll leave with good intentions.”
Cricket Australia had issued a statement on Wednesday to say “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.”
Khawaja posted a heartfelt video message on social media later on Wednesday to say he would continue the fight to express himself freely.
The pre-game drama didn’t appear to be a distraction for Khawaja and opening partner David Warner when the match got underway as they raced to a 50-run partnership inside the first 10 overs.