MELBOURNE: Former Australian cricketing greats Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne will temporarily come out of retirement to lead star-studded teams in a charity Twenty20 match next month as sports organisations and athletes seek ways to raise funds for bushfire relief.
Since October, thousands of Australians have faced repeat evacuations as huge and unpredictable fires scorched more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres), an area roughly the size of South Korea.
Current national head coach Justin Langer will also play in the game on Feb 8 along with former captain Michael Clarke and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, Cricket Australia (CA) said in a statement on Sunday.
“I’m delighted to confirm the Bushfire Cricket Bash will be Cricket Australia’s major fundraising initiative to support Australians impacted by the recent unprecedented bushfire emergency,” CA Chief Executive Kevin Roberts said.
The match will be played on the same day as a women’s Twenty20 International between Australia and India in Melbourne and the men’s domestic Twenty20 Big Bash final.
The charity game would act as a curtain raiser for the Big Bash match, with the venue not confirmed until the two teams for the final are determined.
Also on Sunday, former world tennis number one Serena Williams said after she won her first title in nearly three years at the Auckland Classic that she would donate her prize money from the tournament.
She also donated her match-worn dresses to be auctioned to help raise money.
Williams won $42,000 for clinching the singles title over American compatriot Jessica Pegula and was set to add to that tally after the doubles final with good friend Caroline Wozniacki.
“I’ve been playing in Australia for more than 20 years and it has been hard for me to be watching the news with all the fires,” Williams said at the on-court presentation. “So much has happened that I decided I’d donate all my dresses from my matches and all my prize money for a great cause. So thank you guys.”
She was one of many domestic and international athletes, from cricketers and tennis players to Australian NBA players, to have pledged to support the fundraising for bushfire victims.
Other former greats signed up for the ‘Bushfire Cricket Bash’ also include Shane Watson and Brett Lee, while ex-Australian captain Steve Waugh, will have a non-playing role.
Roberts said he hoped it would play a part in helping those impacted by the devastating fires that have killed at least 27 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
“People the world over have seen the overwhelming images of hundreds of thousands of hectares burnt, precious lives lost, hundreds of properties destroyed and the devastating loss of wildlife as a result of the fires,” he said. “These images have reinforced the need to get behind organisations like the Australian Red Cross which is responding to the immediate requirements of people who have lost loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods.”
Cricket Australia also injected Aus$2 million (US$1.38 million) into a fund to assist community cricket clubs impacted by the fires.
It is the latest initiative by sports stars to stump up memorabilia and cash to help in the relief effort.
On Friday, Warne’s ‘baggy green’ cap, awarded to Test players on their debut, sold at auction for more than Aus$1 million (nearly $700,000) with all funds aiding victims.
A ‘Rally for Relief’ exhibition match at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne featuring Williams and Roger Federer is due to take place on Wednesday ahead of the Australian Open to raise further money.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020