Making cricket genuinely accessible to all Australians of all backgrounds is the best long term solution to ensuring racism has no place in the sport, according to Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland.
The International Cricket Council’s anti racism requirement that venues detect and eject people involved in racist behaviour was excellent, he said.
But it was only a starting point which treated the symptoms of existing disease.
The longer term challenge for the world game is to win the hearts and minds of fans so that they genuinely accept, embrace and celebrate cricket’s global cultural diversity.
“I love cricket for many reasons, including the red-blooded contest that goes with playing hard but fair at an elite level in a genuinely global sport,” he said in a speech to the SA Press Club in Adelaide today.
“But I also love it as a game that crosses cultural divides and, when it gets things right, brings diverse people together in their genuine love of the game”.
Australia takes its ICC anti racism obligations seriously but making cricket genuinely accessible to all Australians was a bigger challenge.
Mr Sutherland noted that cricket legend Richie Benaud, in his forward to CA’s new history book “Inside Story: Unlocking Australian cricket’s archives” which was published this week, said:
“There is though something about cricket in Australia that has always held firm: that any youngster with the skill and right temperament will always be given the chance to play for his country and to do so with distinction; irrespective of the walk of life from which he might come”.
“Our challenge, if we are to ensure validity for Benaud’s statement, is to ensure youngsters of all backgrounds have genuine access to the game,” he said.
“If we get it right, my kids will grow up to barrack for Australian men’s and women’s teams in which the baggy green is worn by indigenous Australians, by Asian Australians, by Islamic Australians, by Australians of all backgrounds,” he said.
Mr Sutherland also told the Press Club that Australian cricket needs to have young boys and girls playing cricket if it is to stay number one cricket nation in the world.
“To a large extent, the battle to stay at the top of world cricket will be won or lost in the school yard,” he said.
The scariest statistics he had seen recently were not Tendulkar’s or Muralidaran’s cricket averages – they were figures showing physical activity in Australian schools dropped from eight hours a week in 1950 to four hours a week in 1970 to 20 minutes in 2007.
Mr Sutherland said cricket and other sports were worried that Australian community sports facilities were in a state of national decay, compounded by damage caused by the drought, making it increasingly difficult for Australians to find somewhere to play their sport.
photos Janos Schmidt