Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts would be open to the idea of staging a charity match to raise funds for the bushfire appeal as the natural disaster continues to ravage large areas of the country.
Australia is in the midst of one of its worst ever bushfire seasons which has led to fatalities, mass evacuations and significant loss of property. The Christmas and New Year period has been especially severe in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
There have already been a number of initiatives put in place across cricket, including players in the Big Bash League pledging donations for sixes hit and wickets taken and the Australia team auctioning off signed shirts from the Boxing Day Test which had raised close to AUD$35,000. On the opening day of the Sydney Test players from both sides wore black armbands in memory of those who have died in the fires while there was a one-minute applause to honour the emergency services.
CA has also announced that the ODIs between Australia and New Zealand in March will be used to raise money for the Red Cross bushfire appeal, but if the pieces could be put into place Roberts said the potential is there for a standalone fixture.
“I’d love to think we could do something along those lines, we’ve all got great memories that the role those sort of events have played in disaster and tragedy in the past and would like to think we can make the most of those ODIs in March,” he told SEN radio. “We are very open to other initiatives that could include celebrity matches, we’ve got a very crowded cricket calendar, we have to make sure what we do has maximum impact. If there’s time, space and availability of the right people nothing is off the table.”
In the past there have been matches staged to raise money after severe bushfires. In 1994, South Africa played an extra game against a New South Wales XI following bad fires in Sydney early in the year. Further back in 1967, after devastating fires in Tasmania, a fundraising match was staged at the MCG and in 1983, Australia played New Zealand in a one-off match at the SCG.
In January 2005, the MCG staged the tsunami appeal match between an ICC World XI and an Asia XI to raise money following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Years later, James Sutherland, who was CA chief executive at the time, recalled the impact of that match and how boards and player associations had worked to bring it together.
“Between Tim May [former head of the ACA and FICA] and I, there was always something to fight about, but when that happened we said, ‘We’re going to do something special’ and he was able to get through his FICA the players to commit to come here and play,” he said in 2018. “Together we put on an event that was extraordinary and raised more than A$15 million for a huge tragedy. It was a reminder of the power of what cricket can achieve when it galvanises all its forces.”