Many casual cricket viewers may have been confused when they saw Australia’s team line-up, when it included the name of someone who they had not heard of, and people were even more confused when they saw him named as co-captain. While he wasn’t named in the final XI, he did go out to toss the coin and shook hands with opposition captain Virat Kohli, and, had Australia won the toss, Australia would have gone along with his decision to bowl first to try to get Kohli out for a duck.
The story of Archie Schiller is a heart-breaking one. Born with congenital heart disease, his life was never expected to be a very long one. He has come close to death more than once, and, now at just 7 years of age, he has had 15 surgeries, including 4 on his heart. He may not live much longer.
The Make A Wish Foundation is a global charity that gives wishes to children, which often includes such things as meeting celebrities, provided that the celebrity agrees to the request. We have seen such things as children playing in a live concert by their favourite musician, taking part in the tossing of the coin in basketball matches, meeting celebrity actors, being a part of TV shows and movie sets, and all manner of things that normal people may never get the chance to do.
In Archie Schiller’s wish, he wanted to be captain of the Australian cricket team, and Cricket Australia decided that they could fulfil that wish.
Archie would probably have been happy if he had just met his idol Nathan “Garry” Lyon, who bowls spin just like how Archie does, or even to have met the current Australian test cricket captain, Tim Paine, but Cricket Australia went one step further and actually named him as captain. There is a video clip of current coach Justin Langer calling Archie on the phone and asking if he would be prepared to turn up for Australia in the Boxing Day test, where he would be named as co-captain.
This is a publicity stunt, of course, in a time when Australian cricket needs some goodwill, in the wake of the ball-tampering saga, and a general decline in the quality of the cricket coming out of Australia, but it is a publicity stunt that is on point.
We mustn’t forget that such wishes do sometimes pay off. Not so long ago, a child with cancer was granted a similar kind of wish and, perhaps because the wish was granted, the cancer went into remission, and that child ended up actually playing for Australia, albeit only in the one day international team. That child was Simon O’Donnell.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the same thing could happen to Archie Schiller.
It’s a nice thought, that perhaps this generosity that is shown could save Archie Schiller’s life, that perhaps his body, which is forced to undergo an almighty fight to survive, can now have something to aim for, hoping that, like Simon O’Donnell, he can not only survive but end up playing for Australia.
And it also might make people within Australian cricket, players, administrators and members of the public alike, think a bit more kindly about their attitude towards everything that has been going on.
It is a publicity stunt, but it is a good one that we all should support.