Having taken the knee last year, the national team want to keep ensuring meaningful change remains on the agenda
Ashley Giles has revealed the England men’s cricket team are discussing an anti-discrimination gesture ahead of their international summer, which begins at Lord’s next Wednesday.
Last summer, England and West Indies took a knee before the start of each of their three Tests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. The gesture was in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and proved a powerful statement beyond the game itself.
Internally, it drew a lot of introspection, with current and former players, coaches and umpires coming forward with their own stories of racial discrimination. Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq is one notable name who has made claims against the county which has led to an investigation into institutional racism at the club.
Former international cricketers Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding also relayed their experiences in a powerful segment on Sky Sports that opened the West Indies series. And a year on from the death of George Floyd, they feature on Sky’s Cricket Show to discuss the progress that had and had not been made over the last 12 months.
England men became the first team to stop taking the knee for their series against Pakistan, right through to the end of the summer, drawing derision from Holding at the time. That was reiterated by Rainford-Brent on Sky, who appreciated it could not be done in perpetuity but only if meaningful change was taking place.
“When it comes to cricket, I felt we should have taken a knee for the summer [but] it was parked quickly,” she said on the programme.
“I don’t mind it being parked if there is action and things are happening but with the roots of our game and how cricket has been used as a tool through history to perpetuate white supremacy, I thought it would have been a great opportunity to say ‘this is our moment’.”
When asked if something was to be forthcoming this summer, Giles confirmed the players were thinking seriously about what it would be. The sense is it will be an all-encompassing show of solidarity, not just against racism. As such, it is unlikely to be the knee.
“This is something I know the team have talked about a lot and I have with certain members of the team and management,” said Giles. “I think there is an intention for them to do something. Like all of us, they feel very strongly about all discrimination, whatever that is. There is a list as long as our arm of the different types.
“So they do feel very strongly as a group about that. Individuals within that group are individuals and respect each and every one of them for their different thinking about these things, they are very mature guys. If it was an individual statement of some sort, we’d support that. They are adults. I do think they are keen on doing something as a team.”
Giles also confirmed Jofra Archer’s assertion that the fast bowler is unlikely to feature for England this summer. The 25-year-old quick had surgery on his problematic right elbow on Friday and revealed in his Daily Mail column that his goal is to be fighting fit for the T20 World Cup and Ashes series later this year. “If I come back before then and manage to play in the home Test series against India — then fine, so be it. If I don’t, I am quite prepared to sit out the summer.”
The surgery is said to have gone well, though Giles was understandably wary on giving any further details given his lack of medical prowess and the amount of rehabilitation between now and getting Archer back in competitive action. But he believes having the procedure now will have the cricketer and the team in a better place for the future, even if it means sitting out this New Zealand series and the five-match series against India.
“I’m very confident we’ll get him back and get him back as we’ve seen Jofra in the past. Every player is different. I think the thing that has been holding Jofra back is that he’s had two different injuries in that elbow and it stops him doing what he does incredibly well – which is bowl quick. That must be frustrating for him. The most important thing is that we look after and care for his injury and him. So his well-being is very important.
“I’m very confident with the medical team we have and the surgery he’s had, which has gone very well, that Jof will be back and firing. Any of us who’ve had surgeries of those sorts in the past, they definitely make you edgy and nervous. But we’ve definitely confident he’ll be back and ready to go at some point later in the year.
“I’ve talked a lot about our objectives in the T20 World Cup and the Ashes and we need to make sure he is best prepared for that. If it went swimmingly, we may see him earlier but we’re not going to put any deadlines on it.”
Giles also reiterated a point he made a few week ago that England players will not be released to play in the re-scheduled IPL. The ECB are set to hold firm over an unofficial request to shift or cancel the last Test of the India series at Emirates Old Trafford to afford the BCCI more time to squeeze in the 31 matches of the postponed 2021 IPL season.
As a result, the competition will be squeezed into the gap between the Test series and the T20 World Cup, which will also be taking place in the UAE. Though it may benefit England’s white ball players to use the competition to acclimatise in conditions that will be in play for the global event, Giles stood firm that no centrally contracted players will be released for the purposes of playing in the IPL, even if they are rested from the tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan which coincide with the tournament.
“We have a full schedule, if we go from the end of the fifth test in September. We are set to leave for Bangladesh on 19th or 20th. We have a full schedule right through including Pakistan and wherever the T20 World Cup is, and I have no information on that, I’m not privy to that. With our long-term strategies and priorities in mind, we are going to have to give some of these guys a break at some point. The intention of giving guys a break for, say, Bangladesh or whatever, wouldn’t be for them to go and play cricket elsewhere. We have to manage our schedule now, so we get our guys arriving in the best shape possible for the T20 World Cup and Ashes.”
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