Coloured cricketers reveal racist taunts | Black Lives Matter

Former cricketers Lisa Sthalekar [R] and Ebony Rainford-Brent [L] have spoken about the need of educating people about inclusivity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

The England versus West Indies Test series felt different. Of course it did – it was the first cricket assignment since the Covid-19 lockdown. The excitement of live action returning was palpable. It was also at this stage that the Black Lives Matter [BLM] movement had gained momentum.

Sky Sports commentators Michael Holding, Ebony Rainford-Brent and Nasser Hussain bared their hearts out on live television. On a day when rain washed out play in Southampton, three coloured commentators bravely let out raw instances of racist remarks aimed at them.     

George Floyd’s death reiterated our responsibility to create an environment which encourages equality among all humans. Football assumed it, with players from major football leagues across Europe mandatorily kneeling before a match.        

The West Indies players sported the BLM logo throughout the 3 match series. Both groups of players would take the knee on Day 1 of each Test – restating their non-tolerance towards discrimination. Such kind of unity was never seen before on the cricket field. Witnessing it in a difficult year was all the more reassuring. 

Educating people about inclusivity is the need of the hour, given the current apathy in OECD countries. It’s quite ironic then, that ‘multicultural’ nations like Australia and England are where racist undertones seep deepest through society. 

Black cricketers sidelined in UK

England’s first black female cricketer, Ebony Rainford-Brent had recounted her harrowing experiences of being taunted and body shamed.

Speaking about the plight of black cricketers in the UK, she said, “let’s look at if cricket values the black community. Black ECB board members, black directors of cricket, black head coaches, black players – the number is zero in all those columns.”

Barbadian fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan have recently made waves with England’s national side.

Rainford-Brent however maintains that the number of black cricket players being integrated remains far less than other sports in the UK. “In terms of the men’s game we’ve seen a decline in 75% of the men’s game of black players.

Many who did play, learnt their trade in the West Indies. When we look at black players who have come through our system, it’s very low compared to football and athletics,” she said.

Sophia Dunkley, an NHS volunteer to help fight the coronavirus, was the last coloured female player to don the England jersey.

Rainford-Brent didn’t mince her words while pointing out how coloured women players had been marginalised for national team selection. “The women’s game as well – zero black players and zero diversity. The current team is all white. So if someone says there isn’t an issue, we need to be honest.”

West Indies cricketers take the knee on the first day of the 2nd Test match between England and the West Indies in Manchester, England on July 16, 2020.

‘Brown-skinned’ upbringing

Former all-rounder Lisa Sthalekar said that she’d often mask her discomfort by joking along with the offender. Citing how her sister was the target of abuse because of her darker skin tone, Lisa knows how damaging casual racism and bullying could be to one’s self-esteem.

Her Indian roots were always likely to come in the way of growing up with local Australians. “I have witnessed family members subjected to racist stereotyping in everyday life and watched the terrible and long-lasting impact this can have on a person’s confidence and self worth.” 

Gathering people to educate them about diversity, inclusivity and togetherness in sport would bring about a cultural shift in thought-process.

Cricket South Africa has a quota system in place where at least six coloured players and two black Africans must be present in the playing XI.  Could the England Cricket Board and Cricket Australia take a leaf out of their book?

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