Cricket Australia can't wait to diversify

October 27, 2007, Sydney Morning Herald

Australian cricket faces decline unless it can bridge the cultural divide, writes Andrew Stevenson.

Cricket's moved on from the years of Don Bradman, when the reins of power were held proudly and defiantly by Protestants, and Catholics in the Australian team felt they were treated as second-class citizens.

Catholics are welcome, as is everyone, declares Cricket Australia. But a quick look through the season 2007-08 official guide suggests the game here still hasn't stretched far beyond its traditional Anglo base and, so far at least, appears to have failed to find much of a foothold in multicultural Australia ...

If cricket, as it does, wants to continue to "own" summer, it's obviously crucial it makes a connection with all Australians ...

CA anti-racism officer Peter Young describes growing beyond the Anglo base as "an absolutely critical issue for us; it's a scary issue. There was a time a generation ago when it was just taken for granted people would just play cricket."

Young estimates that a quarter of Australians were born outside cricket's embrace ...

Broadening the cultural mix makes sound business sense ...

Whereas rugby league, AFL and football teams sound like a roll call of modern Australia, cricket teams are a throwback ...

Lisa Sthalekar, vice captain of the Australian women's team, argues that the game is accepting of players from non-Anglo backgrounds. Yet she agrees more work needs to be done to grow the sport. "Cricket has probably realised it a little bit later than other sports but, hopefully, the amount of resources being put in will see us jump them," she says. "I think everyone's realising we've got to get as many people, no matter where they come from, to get involved in the game."

Damien Bown, CA's general manager of game development, is optimistic the next generation will reveal "a vast change in the sorts of names you see, not just in representative teams, but in teams right through the system".

Cricket clubs have a vital role to play, he says. Running programs isn't enough. "They have to be clubs where they're genuinely welcoming all Australians, and our experience, and the work that we're doing across Australia, confirms that they are. But we have to work hard in that area to make sure cricket is creating role models for new Australians, and that's going to be a critical issue in the next few years."

Only then will the longer-term future of the game be assured, Sutherland says.
Dear Cricket Australia,

Oh yeah, I can see it now .... our own version of Monty Panesar takes a catch off a future Merv Hughes, and 'Merv' sticks his tongue in his ear and pats him on the bum. Not. Take a look at the Australian Rugby League team: does it look and feel Australian anymore? It doesn't look much different from the Kiwi team these days.

Western Sydney has a growing community of Indians and Pakis. Build a bridge to diversity and watch the passion and identity be ripped out of the team. You will just have a team of individuals. Chances are, there are future Sudanese Curtly Ambrose proteges in the wings too. The Australian team will have no identity, no passion, no commitment, no sport.

Just like a multiracial city, a multiracial team is a spiritless ghost waiting for one race to take over - or for a different sport to replace it altogether. Separation is the only way to preserve our culture and race, including cricket. So let's crack off the Anglo parts of Australia and play cricket safe in the knowledge that the march of diversity will not threaten it.

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