Aussie cricket captain Pat Cummins has weighed-in on the Australia Day controversy heading into the second Test against the West Indies and called for the national date to be changed. Controversy erupted this week when Cricket Australia confirmed it would avoid using the word 'Australia Day' on the 26th of January - the second day of the Brisbane Test against the West Indies.
New South Wales Premier Chris Minns took aim at the decision earlier this week, which also saw Prime Minister Anthony Albanese weigh-in as he urged people to move on from the drama. "We just need to come together," Albanese said on Sky News.
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On Tuesday, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley defended the organisation's decision and made it clear it wasn't a boycott of the national day at the Gabba. Instead, he said it was a decision to be mindful of what the date means to different people across the nation.
“We are not in any way boycotting Australia Day, we’re just mindful in our communications that it means different things to different people,” he said to Ben Fordham on 2GB Radio. “We appreciate that many Australians celebrate Australia Day and absolutely love watching the cricket on that day.”
Pat Cummins weighs in on Australia Day date change
With the debate intensifying in the last 24 hours, Cummins has also added his thoughts. Never afraid of speaking his mind, Cummins admitted on Tuesday that he feels the date could change.
"I absolutely love Australia. It is the best country in the world by a mile," Cummins said on Tuesday. "We should have an Australia Day, but we can probably find a more appropriate day to celebrate it. Once you start realising Jan 26 and why it is chosen, Australia Day is meant to be a celebration of everything Australia and our history. (So) we could choose a better date."
Cummins' admission is sure to cause a stir, but Hockley has defended the decision heading into the Gabba day-night Test. He claimed Cricket Australia have discussed the decision with their Indigenous Advisory Board and with Indigenous female and male players.
“It is a difficult day for them,” Hockley added. “What we’ve done over the (recent years) is really to be respectful to everyone and make sure everyone feels absolutely welcome.” He reiterated that he does not believe fans will here the words “Australia Day” at the stadium on Friday.
Ash Gardner not happy with playing on January 26
This is certainly not the first time time a debate has erupted around the decision to play games on Australia Day. Last year, women's star Ash Gardner 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 played Pakistan in a women's T20 on Australia Day in 2023, but the scheduling 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 26-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. "My culture is something I hold close to my heart and something I’m always so proud to speak about whenever asked," she wrote on Twitter.
"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." Cummins admitted he has spoken to Gardner about the issue and stands by his belief.
"(The issue) is not new," Cummins added. "This conversation comes up every year and Cricket Australia has been pretty consistent the last four or five years with the way they approach it.
"In a sport like cricket, which has such diversity and millions of people supporting it and playing it, you get a good spectrum of the community and a good feel for what the community expects. Knowing a couple of those players that you mentioned, you hear the stories and their feelings. So it does gather extra importance."
Jason Gillespie calls for 'Australia Day' date change
Former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie has also endorsed a date change to respect those who feel differently about the day. “There is surely another day in the calendar that we can celebrate Australia Day,’’ Gillespie said.
“I find it frustrating when people say it’s always been January 26 when history clearly shows it simply has not. We’ve had a number of different days as Australia Day over the journey. I don’t understand why people are so hung up on January 26 when it clearly is a day that First Nations people find difficult to get around and be positive about.”
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