Almaliki puts a new spin on engagement

If Fawad Ahmed and Gurinder Sandhu are the public faces of Australian cricket’s drive towards multiculturalism – into which it plans to pour millions of broadcasting revenue dollars – then Sam Almaliki is its beating heart.
Nanjing Night Net

The 24-year-old is not, like Pakistani-born leg-spinner Ahmed, set to soon be added to Australia’s Ashes squad but he is central to the game’s ambition to produce the next production line of elite players from non-traditional cricket backgrounds.

Cricket Australia’s new senior manager for community engagement is Exhibit A in terms of attracting players and fans and disposing of the ”pale, male and stale” image for which the sport has been castigated.

Almaliki saw his first cricket ball bowled during eight months spent as a boy inside Villawood Detention Centre after his parents and two brothers fled their home in Basra in southern Iraq in 1997. His father, Khalaf, was a political science lecturer at an Iraqi university, only adding to concern for their safety under Saddam Hussein.

”When we came to Australia I saw cricket being played by Tamil detainees at Villawood and then was encouraged to pursue an interest in cricket by my year five teacher Rowan Hall at Punchbowl Primary,” he said. ”He encouraged me to play the game, and I watched Steve Waugh and Australia’s tour of the West Indies in 1999 and fell in love with the game.”

CA announced on Tuesday it would use part of its $590 million from new deals with channels Nine and Ten to accelerate its mission to attract more Australians of non-English-speaking backgrounds to the game, as well as more women and girls, indigenous Australians and people with a disability.

National marketing contracts handed to Ahmed and teenage NSW bowler Sandhu, who is of Indian heritage, have been announced and Almaliki’s job is to build on their emerging status.

His tender age should not be a distraction. At 15 he founded the Sydney Junior Winter Cricket Association, which is now one of Sydney’s largest with 900 players and Test captain Michael Clarke as patron. He has also been chair of the NSW Multicultural Youth Network, a commissioner on the NSW Community Relations Commission and, during his previous posting at Cricket NSW, devised Australian cricket’s first multicultural engagement strategy.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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