Melbourne, May 17 (IANS) A group of 14 indigenous Australian women cricketers will fly out on Wednesday for a whirlwind 10-day tour of India, the first of its kind orchestrated by the sport’s national body, Cricket Australia announced on Tuesday.
Backed by Cricket Australia (CA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australia-India Council, the all-indigenous team will play five matches in Delhi and Mumbai against the Yuvraj Singh Cricket Academy, Delhi women’s team and Mumbai Cricket Association women’s team.
In a prepared statement, CA said the programme will help “build awareness and understanding between Australia and India … through sport and indigenous culture”.
The Australian team, in the subcontinent from May 20 to 30, was picked on club form and performances at February’s National Indigenous Cricket Championships in Alice Springs, which had a record number of athletes attend.
The tour has been organised to take place 150 years after an all-Aboriginal team played an historic match on the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1866.
In keeping with that trailblazing all-indigenous team, which eventually toured the United Kingdom in 1868, the 14 aboriginal-heritage cricketers will also get the chance to showcase their talent abroad.
Team captain Ash Gardner, a rising star for the Sydney Sixers in the Women’s Big Bash League, said the tour would prove invaluable for her development.
“A group of indigenous women from across Australia coming together to play overseas and represent indigenous culture is significant, and something we’re all really proud to be a part of,” the 19-year-old said in a statement released by CA on Tuesday.
“Each of us is representing our people back home and I’ m excited about the opportunity to captain the side.
“From a cricket perspective, playing in Indian conditions is one of cricket’s biggest challenges; it will be a big test for us and really help our development individually and as a squad.”
Over the past two decades, CA has taken great strides in making the game — known for its English Anglo-Saxon roots — more inclusive of non-white Australians at the elite level.
In 1996, fast bowler Jason Gillespie became the first player of acknowledged Aboriginal descent to play for the Australian men’s Test side.
Since then, all-rounder Dan Christian has regularly appeared for Australia’ s One-Day International and Twenty20 teams over the past five years.