Australian cricket's Indigenous leader, Justin Mohamed, believes that Cricket Australia's work to improve Aboriginal involvement in the game will not have lasting effects until representation extends to the management office and the boardroom as well as on the playing field.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and its effect of raising public consciousness around the world, Mohamed was adamant that CA's focus needed to be broader than just increasing elite representation in terms of state, W/BBL and international cricketers, or even at the junior and community levels beneath them.
Instead, Mohamed pointed to areas of leadership including coaching, executive management and also the CA board, which is likely to have at least two vacancies this year with Jacquie Hey and Michael Kasprowicz set to exit the scene as directors.
"It'd be great to have consistently more Aboriginal cricketers at the highest level, but that can't be at the detriment of having the base strong, and when I say the base, not only players in local teams, but administrators, people on boards, CEOs and executives across cricket employment in states and territories and at CA," Mohamed said. "That all has to be moving at the same pace, or it will be lopsided and there will be a gulf there and it won't be able to be sustained.
"You may have a whole lot of players that come through, and then you don't see them again. I think that's a challenge across many sporting codes, the AFL for instance would boast they've got the most Aboriginal players percentage-wise playing, close to the NRL, but if you look at the TV presenters and the coaches and the assistant coaches and board members and administrators, those percentages don't equate across those other levels. That has to all be moving as part of where we're going to go if we want to go as a nation.
"We don't want to put people up just because they've got sporting ability, and then once that goes they get pushed aside and we move on, because there's more to a person than that. As we've seen with most people in CA, the Justin Langers and a whole range of people who played the game but have also been able to contribute to cricket in other areas beyond their playing days."
Mohamed's own status as co-chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee (NATSICAC) rather sums up how Indigenous voices are growing in influence but could still be more impactful, given the opportunity.
The committee has historically been co-chaired by an Indigenous leader and a CA director, from the late John Bannon and then the current chairman Earl Eddings, to his successor Kasprowicz. However, CA is yet to take the step of placing the Indigenous co-chair on the CA board itself.
CA's board is currently subject to a nominations committee process involving Eddings, the New South Wales chairman John Knox and his Tasmanian counterpart Andrew Gaggin, while the Queensland chairman Chris Simpson will have a role in selecting Kasprowicz's replacement.
Mohamed, as a Gooreng Gooreng man from Bundaberg who has spent much of his professional life in Victoria, has links to two states, but said it was critical that the whole of cricket took on responsibility to broaden the game, rather than just palming it off to selected Indigenous leaders.
"There would be a lot of Aboriginal people who would want to be more involved in the administration side of the game in CA and across the states and territories, and at the moment we know with the current board there's some changes there," Mohamed said. "I'd be more than honoured to be considered if that was the case, and if I was able to go through the process I'd be more than willing to give my best.
"The important piece in having an Aboriginal person on the board, it is very clear they're there for what they bring, who they are, their experience and expertise. Yes, they're Aboriginal, but not all Aboriginal issues have to sit with them, because it is a whole organisation responsibility to move this forward.
"In Australia there's less than 3% of the population that are Aboriginal people, so really we need the other 97% to take responsibility and to move with us on this.
You may have an Aboriginal senior executive, a board member, you might have a committee set up, you may have Aboriginal staff, but it's going to take all of CA to move and to be a part of this, not just leave that to the Aboriginal committee or employee or a future board person."
Should that sort of outcome be reached, Mohamed enthused, then Australian cricket had the opportunity to grow far larger than its current level, given that it has the Indigenous story of the 1868 tour of England at its very beginning, and an international facet that the likes of the AFL and NRL can only dream about.
"The thing that I love about cricket and what CA has in front of them, is the enormous untapped potential of what it can do for this nation," he said. "It doesn't have a whole heap of Aboriginal cricketers playing at the elite level, but we know we can, because we know Aboriginal cricketers both male and female have the ability to be at the top level.
"We know there's a number of Aboriginal people who can have such great influence in local clubs and bring such a rich culture to those areas and connection to where they're playing the game."