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Paul Kelly Releases Ode to Cricket Hero Usman Khawaja

As Khawaja and his Australian teammates battle England at The Ashes, Kelly has shared a song about his exploits

Usman Khawaja Paul Kelly song

One Australian hero has celebrated another as Paul Kelly has released a song honouring the achievements of cricketer Usman Khawaja.

Originally posted on YouTube last year, Kelly was inspired to pen “Khawaja” after watching the last day of Khawaja’s twin-ton game against England at the SCG in January of last year.

“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,” Kelly recalls.

One year later, as Khawaja impressed with his maiden test century on UK soil as part of the winning Australian team at last month’s first Ashes Test, it made it the ideal time to officially release a studio recording of the song.

“I’ve always loved the way Usman Khawaja bats,” Kelly sats. “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.

“I wanted the new recording to have the simple, unadorned style of that original phone version. No frills. Like the way Uzzie bats.”

The studio recording is accompanied by a picture book based on the song, with the illustrations provided by Sri-Lankan/Australian illustrator and cartoonist Avinash Weerasekera. “The illustrations by Avinash Weerasekera to the words of the song are brilliant,” Kelly adds. “The book looks really good. I hope people have fun with it, with the pictures, words and singing!”

The first Muslim and Pakistani-born Australian to receive an Australian Cricket Test baggy green cap, Khawaja is looking to add to his hero status with an Ashes win this month.

In other Kelly news, the singer-songwriter recently followed Missy Higgins, Bliss n Eso, and The Temper Trap in covering an Australian classic to celebrate Mushroom’s 50th birthday. He offered his own take on Sunnyboys’ “Alone With You”, a seminal song in Australian music.

Paul Kelly’s “Khawaja” is out now. The accompanying picture book is out now via Penguin Randomhouse.