Women's star Ash Gardner has called out Cricket Australia's decision to schedule a T20 international on January 26, describing it as a "day of hurt and mourning" for the Indigenous population. Australia will take on Pakistan in a women's T20 on 'Australia Day', but the scheduling has sparked backlash from the players.
Gardner, who was the second Indigenous woman to play Test cricket for Australia, decried the decision to schedule a game on the day the first fleet arrived in Australia in 1788. The 25-year-old said January 26 is a "day of hurt and a day of mourning" for Indigenous Australians and that playing a game on that date does not sit well with her.
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According to reports, an Indigenous advisory committee approved the decision to play the fixture in Hobart on January 26. The committee consults with Cricket Australia as part of its Reconciliation Action Plan.
The match is the second in a three T20 series against Pakistan. The Aussie team is set to perform a barefoot ceremony before the match and wear a special Indigenous-themed jersey in a bid to celebrate Australia's First people.
But according to AAP, the decision to play the game on January 26 hasn't gone down well within the playing group. Gardner tweeted on Sunday: "My culture is something I hold close to my heart and something I’m always so proud to speak about whenever asked.
"Unfortunately this year the Australian women's cricket team has been scheduled to play a game on the 26th of Jan which certainly doesn't sit well with me as an individual but also all the people I'm representing."
Gardner said she was keen to use her profile as a professional cricketer to help educate others as to the connotations of the day. She wrote: "For those who don't have a good understanding of what that day means it was the beginning of genocide, massacres and dispossession. When I take the field for this game I will certainly be reflecting and thinking about all of my ancestors and peoples' lives who changed from this day."
Cricket Australia no longer uses term 'Australia Day'
In 2021, Cricket Australia became the first major sporting body in the country to phase out the term Australia Day and instead describe it as January 26. Then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised the decision at the time.
"Cricket fans would like to see Cricket Australia focus a lot more on cricket and a lot less on politics," he said, labelling the move "pretty ordinary". Cricket Australia figure Mel Jones later hit back, saying: "Sport has been involved in politics from year dot in a variety of different fronts, not just in Australia but right around the globe.
"Sport is a wonderful vehicle for social change and we need to be brave enough to do that. Hopefully, it sends a message just to be kind to people, that we are listening more, and that's the kind of Australia we want to get to isn't it?"
The last time the Australian women's team played on January 26 was back in 2016. The men's team haven't done so since 2019, but Big Bash games are often scheduled for the date.
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