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Scott Boland: 'It means a lot to join a pretty small club'

Fourth Indigenous cricketer to play for Australia thought his Test chance might have gone

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
26-Dec-2021
Scott Boland celebrates his first Test wicket, Australia vs England, 3rd Test, 1st day, MCG, December 26, 2021

Scott Boland celebrates his first Test wicket  •  Getty Images

On November 6, Scott Boland sat in the Ponsford stand of an empty MCG with three journalists and was asked about what he thought of his Test prospects.
"I know there are so many good fast bowlers around," Boland said, "it's going to be hard for me to get a crack but all I can do is just keep doing what I've been doing for the last few years. If the opportunity comes I'll be really, really happy."
On Boxing Day, the 32-year-old Victorian received his Baggy Green from Josh Hazlewood and took his first Test wicket in front of 57,100 fans. It was a moment he admitted that he thought might have passed him by a few years ago.
"Definitely," Boland said after play on day one in Melbourne. "I probably felt two or three years ago I wasn't bowling as well as I know I could."
Boland played 14 ODIs and three T20Is for Australia in 2016 but had dropped off the selectors' radar.
Following an excellent 2020-21 Sheffield Shield season, Australia's chairman of selectors, George Bailey, spoke to Boland ahead of the 2021-22 season and told him was doing the right things. But even by the second Shield game in early November, Boland had not been given any indication he would be part of the extended Australia/Australia A squad that needed to quarantine in Queensland.
But after taking 8 for 89 against New South Wales at the MCG Bailey rang again to confirm that Boland would be in the Australia A squad to face the England Lions and that he would be a chance to be called up to the Test squad for the MCG or SCG Tests given his superb record at the grounds.
Then the stars aligned with Pat Cummins being ruled out of Adelaide, which led to both Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser playing while Boland was flown in on short notice to carry the drinks. On day five in Adelaide Boland was told he would be added to the Test squad for Melbourne and the rest is history.
Boland's debut is even more significant given he is just the second Indigenous male behind Jason Gillespie, and the fourth Indigenous Australian behind women's representatives Faith Thomas and Ash Gardner, to play Test cricket for Australia.
"I'm pretty proud," Boland said. "My family's very proud as well. It means a lot to join a pretty small club and hopefully, it is just the start of something big for the Indigenous community in cricket. If I can be a role model for young Indigenous kids to want to play cricket, I think the Indigenous community in [Australian rules football] and rugby is so big, hopefully, one day, the Aboriginals in cricket can be just as big."
Cricket Australia's Indigenous advisory chair Justin Mohamed believes Boland can become an inspiration for a community that has been badly under-represented in elite-level cricket in Australia.
"It's a magnificent day for Scott," Mohamed said. "It's a magnificent day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders because he's obviously representing himself and his family but also a representation of people who are so proud it could happen on such a significant day.
"Aboriginal people, where they've excelled, they've gone to sports where they feel there's an opportunity like [Australian rules football], rugby league, boxing. For some reason, that hasn't been seen as a genuine opportunity in cricket and that's what we're hoping to change.
"You hear of cricketers that have come through that came to the MCG and watched Dennis Lillee or Jeff Thompson who inspired them. You hear of athletes who said they saw Cathy Freeman in 2000 [at the Sydney Olympics] and that's inspired them to be the next Olympian. Hopefully, there will be the six, eight, or 10-year-old watching something like this and saying 'that's what I want to do'."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo