MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Johnny Mullagh, who played on the 1868 Aboriginal team that was Australia's first to tour England, became the first Indigenous inductee into the country's cricket Hall of Fame on Monday.
All-rounder Mullagh took 245 wickets at an average of 10.00 and scored 1,698 runs at 23.65 in 45 matches during the 47-match tour.
Hall of Fame Chairman Peter King said the selection panel had modified its criteria to allow Mullagh to be inducted given he never represented Australia in tests.
"I think in this case, Cricket Australia, the players association and the Hall of Fame itself wanted to acknowledge the impact Indigenous players have had on the game," King told reporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday.
"This was probably a bit of an oversight, in retrospect, and I think we have chosen Johnny as a representative of that era as opposed to going back trying to individualise the individual inductees.
"I think that is a great decision but the ongoing inductee criteria hasn't changed beyond that."
Born 'Unaarrimin', Mullagh played in the third cricket match ever staged at the MCG on Boxing Day in 1866 for the Aboriginal and T. W. Wills XI against the Melbourne Cricket Club.
This history had contributed to the introduction of the Mullagh Medal this year for the player of the match in the traditional Boxing Day test in Melbourne, Cricket Australia said.
The inaugural Mullagh Medal will be awarded at the end of the ongoing second test against India.
Mullagh, who lived in the Wimmera region of southern Victoria state, died at the age of 50 in 1891.
He will be one of three inductees announced in February.
Australian cricket has belatedly made efforts to recognise Indigenous players and open pathways for talent into the elite levels but only former pace bowler Jason Gillespie has represented the country in tests in the men's game.
Other Australian sports have been more successful in tapping Indigenous talent, with Indigenous players prevalent in professional Australian Rules football and rugby league.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)