In recent weeks, commentary on cricket has been dominated by a head-strong and hard-edged debate led by senior administrators and senior players seeking to find agreement on a memorandum of understanding.
Rightly or wrongly, it’s left the sport with a perception of being focussed on money and performance where complex commercial terms for the elite could be considered more important than anything else the game offers to everyone else.
This week, cricket has an opportunity to shift the focus away from its head and recapture its heart.
Cricket Australia (CA) and The Lord’s Taverners Australia are signing a new three-year partnership that will see a fundraising initiative, the Sporting Chance Fund, help CA deliver its A Sport For All program. A Sport For All helps girls and women, multicultural community members, Indigenous Australians and people with a disability engage deeply with the game of cricket.
The CA and Lord’s Taverners partnership will grow cricket participation in these sectors and communities through entry level modified programs in schools and clubs. It will develop diverse cricketers, coaches, umpires, administrators and officials, further positioning cricket as a sport accessible to all Australians.
In striking this agreement, cricket can return to a celebration of its most simple but arguably most compelling proposition – enjoyment of the game.
At last January’s inaugural National Cricket Inclusion Championships in Geelong I saw how meaningful playing cricket was to 230 blind-and-vision-impaired, deaf-and-hard-of-hearing Australians. I noticed the thrill cricketers with an intellectual disability got through coming together to, yes compete for titles, but also catch a dose of the ever-inspiring spirit of cricket.
Cricket is a tremendously unifying and inclusive sport – arguably our country’s national sport. And if CA’s latest participation figures are a pulse check, we have good health in female, Indigenous, multicultural and disability communities with a terrific opportunity to increase reach.
The Lord’s Taverners, with the help of its new ambassador Adam Gilchrist, is using its new partnership with CA to trigger improved administration of cricket community programs and better engage with cricket-loving (and money-giving) Australians.
In this new cricket agreement, CA and the Lord’s Taverners have more than a ‘memo of understanding’. We will have an uncomplicated and unbreakable commitment to ensuring the game’s heart becomes an infectious priority that is well understood by everyone involved in the sport.
We will work hard, together, to ensure more and more Australians feel the thrill that comes through the simple enjoyment of playing cricket.
Paul Sheahan played 31 Tests and three One-Day Internationals for Australia and was President of the Melbourne Cricket Club from 2011-15. He is currently President of the Lord’s Taverners Australia. More information on A Sport for All is available at lordstavernersaus.org.au