OriginsInsight Edition 13

Pushing the Boundaries

As we approach the final phases of the 2015 cricket world cup it is timely to reflect on the cultural diversity of tournament teams.  For the second time, the tournament has been contested by 14 teams, comprising ten full members and four Associate and Affiliate members of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Familiar cricket superpowers were joined by Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan and the UAE. While none of the ’minnows’ made it to the quarter finals, their performances demonstrated they were not just there to make up the numbers. Each has earned its place after years of respectable tournament play among the other 24 fellow Associate and Affiliate members from around the world.

Incredibly, there are a further 71 national teams recognised by the five Development regions of the ICC. With 109 national teams, cricket has moved along rapidly to become a genuinely inclusive global sport.

Within Australia, Cricket has a strong claim to be identified as Australia’s national sport due to its popularity in all parts of the country. The Australian Cricket Census puts cricket participation ahead of all other popular sports, including the various football codes, tennis, golf and bowls.

But how diverse are Australia’s elite cricketers? And how well do they reflect Australia’s overall cultural diversity? Does growth in diversity within Australian cricket mirror the growth in diversity in global representation?

In this short piece we draw on recent research conducted by OriginsInfo which surveyed the extent of cultural diversity among the elite performers in several Australian sports (see Elite Athletes PDF).

Measuring Cultural Diversity

Many organisations are discovering the challenge of collecting appropriate data on cultural diversity so they can measure and report on how well they are engaging with Australia’s growing multicultural segments. These challenges are discussed in some depth in a previous edition of OriginsInsight.

OriginsInfo uses a robust name analysis methodology to infer the most likely cultural origin of a particular name combination.  Four pieces of validation work support its claim of approximately 85% accuracy at the individual level.

In the case of Australian cricket, we collected names of 255 first class men and women cricketers playing in Australian competitions in October 2014. For practical purposes and to ensure statistical reliability, we grouped the 257 Origins categories into a smaller number of groups – Anglo-Celtic, North West European, Southern European/Hispanic, and Other CALD1.

We compared the proportion of elite cricketers in those categories with the proportion of the Australian adult population in the same categories. We also compared the current picture with the results we found when we conducted similar research in 2007.


As might be expected given the English origin of the game and the legacy of a British colonial influence, the results reflect a significant over-representation of people with Anglo-Celtic heritage (81.6% compared with 67.4% in the wider population).  Almost 10% are from a North West European heritage, mainly from Germany and the Netherlands.  Although sharing a similar status as longer-term migrants, players with a Southern European heritage are somewhat under-represented.


Most striking, however is the significant under-representation of players with migrant backgrounds from other parts of the world.  Comprising more recent migrants, mainly from East and South Asia, they and their children have had insufficient time to respond to the opportunity, participate in the game and develop the skills to achieve success at the elite representative level.

But OriginsInfo’s research provides evidence of a slight but definite change since we conducted similar research in 2007.  Over a period of seven years, the proportion of cricketers with a heritage other than Anglo-Celtic or North West European has grown from 5.7% to 9.4%.



Arguably, the position will change over time but, as one might expect, growth in cultural diversity is more like the pace of a test match than a big bash event.

The change that is occurring is in no small measure due to the significant commitment of Cricket Australia – from the top, right through to the grass-roots level of clubs and communities.

As long ago as 2005, the CEO of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, said, “Cricket is a genuinely national sport and for that to continue into the future, we must ensure it remains a game for all Australians to access”. For more than ten years, through initiatives such as partnering with the Australian Government’s Harmony Day, Cricket Australia and, notably, Cricket Victoria among the State associations, have championed the goal of making cricket more inclusive for all groups within the community.

Co-hosting the ICC world cup will further raise the profile of the game and encourage engagement – whether as a player, administrator, email recipient, supportive parent, or as a spectator.

Effective measurement of progress at all levels of the game should be a priority to justify the significant commitment of resource to promote cultural diversity. This requires good data, but in common with many sports, Cricket Australia does not collect data relating to cultural diversity.

Relying on sample estimates from the latest National Cricket Census, Cricket Australia claims that 24% of the 1.1 million participants identify as “multicultural”.

While this may or may not be an accurate reflection of culturally diverse participation in Australian cricket, one can’t help but wonder whether such an important strategic objective that channels so much resource deserves more robust and granular data to support measurement of progress. The challenges of efficiently collecting data of sufficient accuracy and detail in a cost-effective, non-intrusive way are highlighted in a previous edition of OriginsInsight.

For a sport so pre-occupied with statistics of team and player performance, further evidence of diversity within the Australian game will do much to reflect progress at the ICC in promoting cricket as one of the genuinely global sports.

1 Culturally and Linguistically Diverse

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