Gardner spins Australia Day backlash into match-winning performance
February 12, 2023 11:53 PM
Ashleigh Gardner says she sought strength from the backlash she faced after protesting the re-scheduling of an international on a politically sensitive date as she inspired Australia to a crushing Women's T20 World Cup win over New Zealand.
Gardner, an Aboriginal Australian, protested on social media when Cricket Australia moved a game against Pakistan in Tasmania to January 26, a holiday tradition known as Australia Day.
Gardner called the holiday -- which marks the arrival of the first fleet to establish a penal colony and raise the British flag in Sydney Cove -- a day of "hurt and a day of mourning".
Some Aboriginal Australians have suggested renaming the holiday "Survival Day" or "Invasion Day" or making it a day of mourning.
Gardner played the game, in which Australia wore an Indigenous jersey, socks and wristbands, while Cricket Australia said the match was an opportunity to continue an "ongoing education journey" with the Aboriginal community.
Named player of the match on Saturday after Australia thrashed New Zealand by 97 runs in Paarl, Gardner talked about the hostility she faced.
"Social media has a lot of good things and I knew when posting that statement that there was going to be backlash," the 25-year-old said.
"I underestimated how much I copped and I guess I tried my best not to look at all that stuff, but I feel like it's only human nature to read comments and things like that.
"I put that statement out there because that's what I believed in, and I just have to stick true to what I said," she added.
"I've just tried to flip that and turn into a positive and it's sparked conversations. Not everyone's going to agree with everything that people say, and that's totally fine, as long as I change some people's minds about certain things."
Gardner, an off-spinner, took five wickets in three overs at a cost of 12 runs on Saturday as New Zealand lost their last six wickets for 25 runs.
"The support that I had from my teammates and support staff was huge, because it was a couple of dark days there where I was like, 'Why did I do that?'" Gardner said.
Gardner said she had "stuck to her guns" and was "trying to take that confidence" into her cricket by keeping her off-field actions close to her game.
- 'Huge moment for women's cricket' -
Gardner said she was also trying to block out another potential distraction: the first women's IPL auction set for Monday.
"I actually dreamt about it the other night which is quite sad, which is quite funny. That's how much I've been thinking about it unfortunately," she said.
"I think it's a huge moment for women's cricket to see the money that's being put into women's cricket over in India."
But she added: "it's not about the money side. It's about being able to go there to challenge myself. My focus right now is the World Cup and that's the elephant in the room for a lot of teams.