Ash Gardner On Being Only The Third Aboriginal Australian To Play Test Cricket

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Ash Gardner On Being Only The Third Aboriginal Australian To Play Test Cricket

Ashleigh Gardner was a two-time world champion by the age of 22 – destructive with the bat and a match-winner with the ball.

But she is not your typical Australian cricketer.

In fact, cricketers like Gardner are all too rare. She is one of just three aboriginal Australians to play Test cricket.

Gardner is a world beater but much, much more.

“It is an awesome feeling walking out on to the field knowing I am representing my country but also my culture and my people,” Gardner, now 23, told BBC Sport.

Gardner’s indigenous roots come through her mother, who is from the Muruwari people – a tribe from rural New South Wales.

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The all-rounder herself grew up in a suburb of Sydney and had what she describes as a “normal Aussie upbringing”.

“With my mum’s upbringing, she was quite disconnected to her family having been brought up in a foster care home,” Gardner said. “She is still learning about our culture and our family.”

But Gardner is unequivocally proud of her roots.

Aged 18, she captained the Australia Indigenous team in India and two years later led the same side on a historic tour of England.

The tour commemorated the 150th anniversary of another by the Aboriginal team that played in the UK in 1868 – the first Australian team to tour internationally in any sport, long before any urns or baggy greens.

“I have my tribe name tattooed on my arm so when I am out batting there is always a reminder I am doing it not only for myself but for my family and my culture,” Gardner said.

“I am very proud of my culture. I continue to learn about it and I am really excited to know more so I can tell people my family’s story.”

A little over six weeks ago Gardner was winning the T20 World Cup with her Australia team-mates in front of 86,174 spectators at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Now, with cricket halted by coronavirus, she has found a new hobby in aboriginal paintings. However, the lockdown has postponed any plans to visit her tribe’s homelands.

“I was supposed to go over Easter,” Gardner said.

https://www.bbc.com

“My mum has only ever been out there once. That is where both of her parents are buried and a couple of other family members.

“Just being able to see that and just to soak all that in will be quite an emotional experience.

“Going in the future is something I am really looking forward to.”

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‘Surreal to be a role model’

Cricket has lagged behind other sports in Australia in terms of participation levels among indigenous communities.

Governing body Cricket Australia is striving for change, with increased funding and focus on growing the game in aboriginal communities following a review in 2015.

Ash Gardner On Being Only The Third Aboriginal Australian To Play Test Cricket

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