As I was walking towards Central train station in Sydney after work earlier this week, I noticed a sea of blue jerseys. The T20 World Cup has drawn enthusiastic cricket fans in Sydney and Melbourne over the past week, and what I had witnessed at the station were packs of people filing through the ticket barriers as they headed towards the Sydney Cricket Ground to support India’s cricket team.
Amongst these large groups of cricket supporters were many young, brown women. Yet, despite the popularity of the sport amongst this demographic, Australia’s sports media rarely showcases brown women’s (including Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women) enthusiasm, knowledge and love for the game beyond a quick camera pan of us holding signs or cheering. Former cricketer and captain of Australia’s international women’s cricket team, Lisa Sthalekar is one of the South Asian Australian women on TV in this space. But we need more.
Last week we saw Rana Hussain as a Match Day Host for the International Cricket Council (ICC), speaking to fans and reporting on the energy, passion and atmosphere at the MCG during the T20 World Cup in Melbourne.
Rana is the Melbourne-born daughter of Indian Muslim parents who migrated to Australia from Indian in the early 1970s. She’s a social inclusion and belonging specialist, who was previously the Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Cricket Australia and a member of the Collingwood Football Club anti-racism expert group. She’s now the Sport Director for Champions of Change, and as of last week, a Match Day Host for the International Cricket Council (ICC) during the T20 World Cup in Melbourne.
In an Instagram post following the event, Rana spoke about how there was a time she could never imagine such a role being offered to her, because she had grown up struggling to see people who looked like her in mainstream Aussie media.
“There are so many things in my life I said no to or didn’t even think I could do because there was a story in my head, however based in reality or not, that told me ‘not you’,” Rana wrote on her social media account.
“That story said ‘no not you’ because you’re a girl. A brown girl. A fat girl. A Muslim girl… so to be asked to Match Day Host for the #ICC #T20WorldCup – which was jumping right into the deep end for me – and then say ‘yes’ and THEN actually do it is a complete dream.
“Thank you @t20worldcup @icc @kojoworld for this opportunity 🙏🏽You made my inner child’s heart sing, but you showed so many other children they can be it, cause they could see it.”
Rana’s final remark is one I often hear when I interview people of colour in the entertainment industry about diversity and representation. They tell me: “You can’t be it if you can’t see it” or “you can only be what you can see”.
Growing up in Australia in a Fijian Indian household, I also recall struggling to see people who looked like me in the media, and it made the possibility of becoming a journalist all the more daunting because I wasn’t sure if brown women could actually make it, or even deserved to take up space in this field.
Rana has previously spoken about the importance of inclusion of people of colour in sport, not only at the player level, but in supporting administrative roles, in the media and in higher level executive roles.
“We see in football an over-representation of Indigenous players in the men’s game on-field [compared with the general population],” she told The Saturday Paper. “But that’s not really mirrored in the administration when it comes to the AFL clubs and in the AFL itself.”
Then referring to Australian Rules football in particular, she highlighted the significance of the sport being accessible to all people in Australia despite their background.
“I want equality of opportunity at every level. So, people don’t have to play or love football to feel like they’re an Australian, but if they decide they want to, they should have every opportunity and ability to do so,” she told the publication.
“That could be the young Muslim girl at home who aspires to be the CEO [of a club]. She should look at the game and think, ‘I could do that’, rather than, ‘That’s not the place for me.’ That’s what I hope for footy in Australia.”
I can’t wait to see what’s next for women of colour in Australian sport and sports media, because if Rana’s latest hosting gig is anything to go by, I’m hoping that this is the start of a new chapter for us.