Ash Gardner turns criticism to positives after January 26 backlash

Ash Gardner turns criticism to positives after January 26 backlash
Ash Gardner turns criticism to positives after January 26 backlash

Gardner, the Indigenous Australian allrounder, took a career-best 5 for 12 from three overs – her maiden international five-for – to help bowl New Zealand out for just 76 as her side won their opening T20 World Cup match by a massive 97 runs in Paarl on Saturday.

A Muruwari woman, Gardner had last month criticised Cricket Australia for scheduling a T20I against Pakistan on January 26, saying it was not appropriate for the national side to be playing on what is known as Australia Day – the day the First Fleet arrived in 1788 – and that it is a day of “hurt and a day of mourning” for Indigenous people. She made herself available for selection and played in the match, during which her team wore an Indigenous jersey, socks and wristbands, but she was subjected to abuse on social media.

Reflecting on that period after her team’s latest victory, Gardner said: “Social media has a lot of good things and I knew when posting that statement that there was going to be backlash. I think 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.

“It was a moment where I stuck to my guns and I put that statement out there because that’s what I believed in, and I just have to stick true to what I said. I guess 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, whether it’s social issues or not.”

In response to Gardner’s tweet at the time, Cricket Australia released a statement saying scheduling the match on that day was an opportunity to continue an “ongoing education journey” with the Indigenous community.

Following her Player-of-the-Match performance in South Africa, Gardner said she had tried to take confidence from the fact that she had been unwavering in her stance.

“The support that I had from my team-mates 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. “But knowing that it was for a good cause and then just trying to take that confidence with that going into my cricket as well, sticking to my guns with how I play cricket, and then I guess how I act off the field as well, trying to keep them pretty close together.”

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