Cricket is at a crossroads. 50-over cricket is virtually dead, and Test cricket is on life support, financially unviable anywhere other than India, England and Australia.
Despite our population growth, cricket attendances in Australia have either plateaued or are in decline. And, if we’re honest, it’s been a while since our national men’s cricket team has been supported like the Matildas are now.
I’m happy to discuss the relative merits of urinals and cubicles. But, in the interests of cricket, let’s do it without undermining broader efforts on diversity and inclusion, in the language we use or the tone of the debate.
In the year that Australia last won a men’s Ashes series in England, baby boomers and their elders comprised about two thirds of adult Australia. These days, it’s about a third, with millennials and Gen-Z making up 40 per cent and rising fast. Over the same period, the number of non-English speaking households increased by 50 per cent.
Rather than being dismissed as ‘woke’, diversity and inclusion should be embraced as good business by any sporting code looking for participants, performance and spectators, not to mention government and corporate dollars, which will increasingly go to sporting codes with broad appeal and social impact.
Cricket will wither on the vine, unless it can capture the hearts and minds of a younger and more diverse community. Framing public debates in a way that makes us look old fashioned or exclusive, will push parents and their kids to other sports and only hasten cricket’s demise.
If we want cricket, and its rich history, to remain a part of the Australian identity, we need to see diversity and inclusion as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
Daniel Smith is a WACA board candidate.