The ECB has announced a new range of measures designed to open cricket up to more diverse communities, after Tom Harrison, the chief executive, admitted that the Black Lives Matter movement had revealed some “uncomfortable truths” about the sport’s relevance to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) players.
Speaking on the eve of the first Test against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl, where the England team will make a gesture of solidarity towards BLM, Harrison acknowledged recent criticism of the ECB’s efforts at inclusion, including from Michael Carberry, the former England opener, who argued that black people are “not important to the structure of English cricket” and the former Derbyshire opener Chesney Hughes, who was left out of contract in 2017 despite averaging more than 50 the previous season.
In 2019, there were just two state-educated British-born black players playing professionally for any of the 18 first-class counties, one of whom featured in a solitary match. Last month, Vikram Solanki, the former England batsman, was appointed as Surrey’s head coach, making him the first British Asian to be recruited for such a role.
“Alongside most of society, we have had to confront some uncomfortable truths in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Harrison. “We have listened and will continue to listen carefully to the experiences of black people in cricket and society, and we thank those who worked tirelessly and spoke bravely to open up conversations about the change our sport needs to create.
“We have made strong strides in many areas to become a more inclusive and diverse sport, but we realise there is a great deal more to do.”
The measures announced by the ECB include increased representation in leadership roles, a game-wide anti-discrimination charter and a bursary scheme for young black coaches, with a focus on “leadership, education and opportunity”. There will also be a further drive to reintroduce cricket in primary schools, with a focus on ethnically diverse areas.
In addition, Harrison said that there would be further pressure on the first-class counties and county boards to adopt the Rooney Rule, which requires at least one BAME applicant to be interviewed for any job opening, and he challenged the sport to reach representation targets that reflect each county’s local population by 2022.
“When it comes to governance reform, there is a certain process that you must go through,” Harrison said, “but that doesn’t mean that we can’t inject some real adrenaline into that process to enable us to get to a better place quicker.”
Although the ECB board currently meets the Sport England code of 30% gender diversity, Harrison acknowledged that the sport continued to fall short on ethnic representation, in spite of the adoption of programmes such as the South Asian Action Plan in 2018, and added that the ECB’s recent AGM – held virtually due to the Covid outbreak – had further highlighted the organisation’s “predominantly white elderly male demographic”.
“That doesn’t reflect the playing base of our game in this country – nor where we really want to be in the future if we’re going to continue to grow and continue to be relevant,” said Harrison. “When everything’s going well in your sport, it’s very easy to think all is well beneath the surface. We’ve got a warning here from the black community now, saying: ‘Guys, you’re not relevant to us right now.'”
Harrison acknowledged there were alarming parallels between the experience of the Windrush generation of black British cricketers, whose children were not given the opportunities to embrace cricket in this country, and the younger generation of Asian immigrants, who find themselves similarly excluded from English cricket’s mainstream.
“I think the reality is that we’ve never cracked this challenge as a game in this country,” said Harrison. “In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, Britain was handed a generation of black cricketing fans, people who had a connection with the game through a family connection in the Caribbean. Those communities subsequently found life extremely difficult when coming to Britain and cricket was one of the ways in which they were able to connect and feel part of their community.
“What we have to understand now is that it’s not just black communities, but a huge swathe of urban communities and diverse communities that don’t feel cricket is making a real connection with them at the moment. That’s work that we absolutely need to do. “The danger is that in a generation’s time, if we don’t get this right, we will suffer the same fate with respect to the South Asian community. In both of these situations, we’re finding that there is a pattern here that we absolutely have to address – to change that scenario, to change that sense of disenfranchisement, to get under the skin of it and move forward together.”
“In 15 or 20 years’ time, if we’ve got that same problem with the South Asian communities, then you’ve just lost 35% of your participation just like that. It takes authentic effort, proper understanding of the issues and then a long and committed drive to reverse it. It will take a long time but it absolutely has to happen.”
Ireland name uncapped Curtis Campher, Harry Tector for England ODI series opener
Curtis Campher and Harry Tector are in line to make their Ireland ODI debuts against England on Thursday after being included in a 14-man squad for the first match of the series, which will kick off the Men’s World Cup Super League.
Campher, a 21-year-old allrounder, toured England in 2018 with South Africa Under-19s, but decided earlier this year to use his mother’s Irish passport to boost his international prospects. He signed a development contract earlier this year and travelled with the Ireland Wolves on their A-team tour to Namibia before the pandemic struck.
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An attacking middle-order batsman, Tector has already won 20 T20I caps at the age of 20, but is now in line for a 50-over debut. He warmed up for the series with a pair of fifties – in Ireland’s intra-squad practice match and in their fixture against England Lions – and showcased his ability as a hitter in the T20I series against Afghanistan in March.
The high-profile omission from the squad is Mark Adair, Ireland’s leading ODI wicket-taker in 2019. Adair got through eight overs against the Lions following an ankle surgery earlier this year, but is not yet fully fit after limited cricket so far this year.
Ireland will name squads on a match-by-match basis, with a 22-man group staying on-site at the Ageas Bowl. Left-arm spinner George Dockrell and middle-order batsman Gary Wilson are also left among the reserves, with the selectors looking to give younger players an opportunity to bed into the international set-up.
“Curtis has impressed selectors and coaches with both his batting and bowling, played very well for the Ireland Wolves against Namibia in February, has trained well in recent weeks and provides a great balance to the side,” said Andrew White, the chairman of selectors. “Fans saw a little of what he can offer during the intra-squad match last Wednesday, and we believe he’ll be ready to step up if called upon.
“Another exciting one for Irish fans is Harry Tector, who comes into the reckoning now to make his ODI debut. Harry has already featured in 20 T20 Internationals for Ireland, and has demonstrated during warm-up games and in training that he is ready for this format of the game. His half-century on Sunday was against an excellent attack, and demonstrated a maturity in his batting for a player so early in their career.
Our deliberations on selection took into account not only those two warm-up games, but also form shown earlier in the year before lockdown. In addition, we also took into account that we have a larger squad here than would be normal, so we decided on a side for the first game only at this point. This means that the eight players who miss out on this playing squad may still have an opportunity to feature in the series.”
Ireland squad for first ODI: Andrew Balbirnie (c), Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O’Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young
Reserves: Mark Adair, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, JJ Garth, Tyrone Kane, James McCollum, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson
James Anderson backs Stuart Broad to break England record as he claims 500th Test wicket
James Anderson says that his team-mate Stuart Broad could go yet on to outstrip his own England-record wicket tally, as he stood on the verge of becoming the fourth seam bowler in history to reach 500 Test wickets on the final day against West Indies at Emirates Old Trafford.
Broad went into the final morning of the match on 499 Test wickets, and duly pinned Kraigg Brathwaite lbw shortly after a brief rain delay to reach his milestone. It was his ninth wicket in a remarkable personal performance, which also featured a 33-ball half-century in England’s first innings, and followed on from six vital wickets in the series-levelling win at the same ground last week.
“The way Stuart’s bowled in the last two games has been absolutely phenomenal and an absolute credit to himself and the work he’s put in over the last few years,” Anderson told Sky Sports before the start of play.
“He’s now getting the ball to shape away again. We’ve seen how lethal he is with that wobble seam that nips back and hits batsmen on the pads. It’s incredible to watch and a real inspiration, not just for the younger members of the team but for me, seeing someone like Stuart work as hard as he has, and deal with the things that he’s had to deal with over the last few years.”
Broad is currently the leading wicket-taker in the series with 15 wickets, despite being controversially omitted from the first Test at the Ageas Bowl. During that match, he expressed his anger at being overlooked despite being England’s best bowler in both the Ashes last summer and the tour of South Africa in December and January, and Anderson was impressed with the manner in which he’d backed up his words with deeds.
“Obviously he was disappointed at Southampton,” he said, “but just seeing the way he dealt with that, he’s come back and got picked in the second Test match, and from there he just looked like he had a real point to prove, and I think he has proved it.”
Anderson has now played alongside Broad in 117 of his 140 Tests, and is himself 11 wickets away from becoming the first fast bowler to reach 600 in Tests. And with their contrasting methods – swing versus seam, skid versus height – they have now claimed a combined total of 894 Test wickets on the occasions they’ve lead the line for England since 2008.
Asked if there were any parts of Broad’s game that Anderson would wish to take for his own, he replied: “I quite like to be six foot six. That’d be a nice addition to what I’ve got. But to be honest I’m always amazed at how he gets on a spell and just blows people away.
“He got three wickets in 14 balls in the first innings, and his six-for. He just gets on a roll and I don’t feel like I’ve got that in my game. If I get a five-for, it seems to take me a few days to get it.”
“But to be honest, I don’t think either of us is that fussed about the actual wickets tally. What we enjoy doing is winning games of cricket and celebrating those moments together.
“We love bowling together in Test matches as well, we have a really good understanding and we bowl well when the other guy bowling is at the other end, we seem to know what each other is trying to do. We enjoy playing cricket for England and winning games of cricket for England, and the wickets will take care of themselves.”
Nevertheless, while Broad has often been considered the junior partner in their alliance, and not just in terms of their four-year age gap, Anderson was confident his team-mate has the drive, the fitness and determination to keep leading the line for England for several seasons to come.
“There’s a very good chance that he’ll get more wickets to me if he carries on like this,” Anderson said. “I heard him say the other day, why can’t he carry on until he’s my age and that’s absolutely true. He’s in great shape.
“He’s working so hard on his game and whenever he gets the opportunity to play, as we saw in South Africa and against Australia last year, he leads the attack brilliantly. He can go on and get as many wickets as he wants.”
R Ashwin: Disallow the run or give bowler a ‘free ball’ for non-striker backing up
R Ashwin has revived the discussion around non-strikers backing up before the ball has been bowled, suggesting that technology be used to spot and penalise the errant batsmen, by either disallowing the runs scored off the ball in question, or giving the bowler a “free ball”.
Ashwin went on to explain – on Twitter – how non-strikers, by backing up, could give their team an advantage as they could put a better batsman on strike. He said penalising the batsman could address the “grave disparity” between bat and ball in what he called an “increasingly tough” environment for the bowlers.
Just hope that technology will see if a batsmen is backing up before the bowler bowls a ball and disallow the runs of that ball every time the batter does so!!Thus, parity will be restored as far as the front line is concerned. #noball #dontbackup
— Ashwin (@ashwinravi99) July 28, 2020
“Just hope that technology will see if a batsmen is backing up before the bowler bowls a ball and disallow the runs of that ball every time the batter does so!!Thus, parity will be restored as far as the front line is concerned #noball #dontbackup,” Ashwin started off tweeting. “Many of you will not be able to see the grave disaparity here, so let me take some time out to clarify to the best of my abilities. If the non striker backs up 2 feet and manages to come back for a 2, he will put the same batsmen on strike for the next ball.
“Putting the same batsmen on strike might cost me a 4 or a 6 from the next ball and eventually cost me 7 more runs instead of may be a 1 and a dot ball possibility at a different batsmen. The same will mean massively for a batter wanting to get off strike even in a test match.
“It is time to restore the balance in what is an increasingly tough environement for the bowlers. #thefrontcrease #belongs to #bothparties @bhogleharsha we can use the same tech that we are proposing for a no ball check 120 balls in a T 20 game.”
This came after the ICC announced that TV umpires would watch front-foot no-balls in ODIs during the World Cup Super League, which starts July 30 with the first England v Ireland game in Southampton.
The debate has divided opinion afresh since last year, when in an IPL game, Ashwin, the Kings XI Punjab captain at the time, ran out Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler at the non-striker’s end without delivering the ball. The dismissal sparked off the old debate, with the MCC first deeming the dismissal “legal” and a day later calling it against “the spirit of cricket” because Ashwin had “paused too long” before taking the bails off.
When Twitter users disagreed with Ashwin for asking for alternate penalties, Ashwin replied: “Make the run invalid of that ball or give the bowler a free ball the next one.
“Instead of Disallowing the run, may be the bowler can get a free ball the very next one where the batsmen has backed up. Some fairness to start off may be.”
While Ashwin did not clearly define what he meant by “free ball”, it could mean a bowling version of a free hit – no runs allowed, but the batsman can be dismissed.
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