A relieved Ashleigh Gardner has declared herself fit for Australia’s first match of the CommBank T20I Tri-Series against England, after concussion threatened to sideline the allrounder for an event close to her heart.
Saturday’s match at Manuka Oval will see Australia wear unique Aboriginal-inspired uniforms and take part in a Barefoot Circle alongside England, as part of Australian Cricket’s inaugural Reconciliation Round.
Gardner, who last year became just the third Indigenous player to don the Baggy Green, suffered concussion after being struck on the back of the neck while bowling in the nets last Sunday and sat out a warm-up game on Monday as a precaution.
But the 22-year-old has successfully passed all required tests during Australian training this week – in time for the proud Muruwari woman to pull on the new-look uniform for Saturday’s game.
“It’s an important game for us, Cricket Australia have made a big impact on what’s happening in Indigenous cricket at the moment,” Gardner said on Friday.
“It’s really exciting to be part of this and to connect sport and culture is an important thing going forward.”
Gardner, who has a worrying history of concussion, having previously missed matches during the 2017 Ashes and the 2017-18 Rebel WBBL season, said it was fortunate she was hit on the neck and not the head in the incident in the Sydney Cricket Ground nets.
“I’m good to go,” she said. “It was a bit of a silly thing to happen, I turned my back at the wrong time and Alyssa Healy got me in the neck.
“Thankfully it wasn’t in the head, which would have prolonged my recovery, but I’m good to go.”
While Australia’s national teams in other sports have worn Indigenous-themed strips in the past, this is a first for either of the senior national cricket teams.
Cricket Australia worked with apparel partner ASICS and Aboriginal artists Aunty Fiona Clarke and Courtney Hagen to produce the shirt.
It features the Walkabout Wickets artwork by Clarke, the great-great granddaughter of Jimmy ‘Mosquito’ Couzens, who was part of the landmark 1868 Aboriginal team that toured England, becoming the first Australian team in any sport to play abroad.
“It shows Indigenous kids in particular that it can be done and they can play at the highest level,” Gardner said.
“For young Indigenous kids who are aspiring to be cricketers or to play any sport, (seeing this shirt) shows that they can play at the highest level and to see some of their role models wearing a pretty cool design, that’s a special thing.
“Being from Aboriginal heritage it’s closer to me than anyone else.
“Going forward hopefully this can be a yearly thing.”
Gardner and her Australian teammates visited the Indigenous-owned and operated Boomanulla Oval, located on Ngunnawal country, in Canberra on Friday.
There they participated in a cricket clinic with local Indigenous and at-risk youth and met prominent local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, including Aunty Tina Brown of Ngunnawal Country.
CommBank T20I tri-series
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
First T20I: January 31, India v England, Manuka Oval
Second T20I: February 1, Australia v England, Manuka Oval
Third T20I: February 2, Australia v India, Manuka Oval
Fourth T20I: February 7, India v England, Junction Oval
Fifth T20I: February 8, Australia v India
Sixth T20I: February 9, Australia v England
Final: February 12, Junction Oval
* All matches will be broadcast on the Seven Network and Fox Cricket, live stream on Kayo and the CA Live app or listen on ABC Grandstand
2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup
February 15: Australia v West Indies, Allan Border Field
February 18: Australia v South Africa, Karen Rolton Oval
February 21: Australia v India, Sydney Showgrounds
February 24: Australia v Sri Lanka, WACA Ground
February 27: Australia v Bangladesh, Manuka Oval
March 2: Australia v New Zealand, Junction Oval
March 5: Semi-final 1, SCG
March 5: Semi-final 2, SCG
March 8: Final, MCG
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE
* All matches will be broadcast on Fox Cricket and Kayo, while Australia’s matches will also be broadcast on the Nine Network
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