Joe Root has confirmed that both teams will “be taking a moment of unity” ahead of the first LV=Insurance Test between England and New Zealand as part of a wider commitment to combat issues around inclusion within the game.
Root, the England captain, acknowledged that “sport and society” had faced some “hard truths” over the last year around the issues of inclusion and diversity and resolved to “make a difference and keep bettering our sport.”
That ‘moment of unity’ ahead of the Lord’s Test is likely to be similar to the one that preceded the first round of County Championship games in April when players, support staff and match officials stood in silence on the boundary edge for two minutes. Last year, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, the entire England and West Indies squads took a knee ahead of each match of their three-Test series.
The game was also rocked by a series of allegations from non-white players – notably Michael Carberry and Azeem Rafiq – which have precipitated a period of soul-searching and the introduction of various initiatives – including mandatory education programmes, a confidential helpline and a code of conduct – which have been designed to improve the game’s record at attracting more diversity in terms of players and spectators.
Root is adamant the ‘moment of unity’ will be no empty gesture and instead the start of a year that “is all about action”. To that end, he revealed that England’s players will be “working with hopefully three projects” over the summer. The details of those projects has not yet been confirmed, though an ECB spokesperson said they would “cover diverse, hard to reach and under-represented communities with a good geographical spread aimed at all ages”.
“We will be taking a moment of unity at the start of the game,” Root said. “New Zealand will also be doing that. They are happy to work alongside us and support us in that.
“We know at the start of last summer there were some hard truths throughout sport and society. We have spent a lot of time talking about how we can better our game and how we can educate ourselves more. We have worked with the PCA and the ECB in trying to find ways of doing that and have done some workshops recently to try and make ourselves a bit more comfortable dealing with those issues.
“Throughout this summer, we will be looking at working with hopefully three projects where we can take the game to more diverse areas around the country where we can continue to look to grow the game and offer our help and support in doing that.
“We have spent a lot of time talking about this sort of thing, but this year is all about action. It’s about actually doing something about it.
“It has taken time. We wanted to make it really clear about how we are going to make a difference and keep bettering our sport.
“Hopefully this year we can really start to make a difference and keep that conversation current. We can make our game more diverse and make sure it is the game for everyone. We [must] do as much as we can in that regard to grow the game and make everyone feel comfortable playing cricket.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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