Ben Stokes, the stand-in captain, has confirmed that England would make “a gesture” in support of Black Lives Matter during the first Test against the West Indies.
“There is going to be a gesture shown from us as a team in support of Black Lives Matter towards the equality in society throughout cricket and throughout sport,” Stokes said. “We aren’t in any way shape or form showing support towards any political matters on the movement. We are all about equality through society and sport.
“Without the diversity that we have shown as a team over however many years, and the equality that needs to be given, we might not be World Cup champions, we might not be one of the best Test teams in the world. We have a great chance to send a real powerful message and to educate people more on the matter.”
England have already announced that they will join West Indies in having a Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts for this month's Tests. The logo will be placed on the team’s collar.
It is still unclear whether England will take a knee in protest against racial inequality at the start of the game. The West Indies are also discussing whether to take a knee as a team.
“As a team that we have an opportunity to send a real powerful message and I am really excited as an individual and the team is really excited that we are able to be a part of that,” Stokes said.
Stokes’s comments came as the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a raft of new initiatives to increase diversity in the sport. The ECB announced the creation of a new game-wide anti-discrimination charter and code, ambitions to make leadership and governance more diverse, and the creation of a new coaching bursary for future black coaches. The ECB will also continue to work with counties to recommend the adoption of the Rooney Rule for all coaching roles across the game.
“In the last few weeks, we have heard some uncomfortable stories, specifically about the experiences of black communities in cricket,” said Tom Harrison, the chief executive of the ECB. “It's clear that we've got a huge amount of work to do and that we haven't got things right in terms of black communities in this country feeling part of our game. And if we're not attracting people from the African-Caribbean community into the game, then we're missing out on a huge amount and it's something the game should reflect very deeply on. ”
As Telegraph Sport reported last month, Mark Alleyne is the only black British head coach of a county this century. Despite winning two trophies in four seasons with Gloucestershire, Alleyne has not subsequently got an interview for a county head coach role. Alleyne is among the black cricketers to have had discussions with Harrison in recent weeks.
“I believe the ECB are serious about this and will help empower change for good,” Alleyne said, welcoming the initiatives. “What we are looking for long-term is a position where how we behave and integrate is our default setting and not an impulse reaction to some pressures.”
Harrison said that, for the black community, “as a coach maybe life is more difficult than even as a player, because those opportunities are fewer and further between”.
The lack of transparency in many coaching jobs - which are frequently not advertised, favouring those already inside the system - is another issue, Harrison admitted. “One of the things we have to do is make sure that the processes are transparent - there is an independent nominations committees and that kind of thing proper decision-making process is signed off by boards. That kind of thing needs to needs to happen and to be honest I don't know the extent to which that is absolutely the case through the game.
“It needs to be a genuine desire to create the pipeline of coaches that feel like they have a proper opportunity to develop a career in the game a professional level.”
The ECB will work with first-class counties and county Boards to support them reaching their own representation targets, to have at least 30% women and a BAME target guided by the make-up of their local population. The governing body is also working with leading figures in the African-Caribbean community to become more diverse.
As Telegraph Sport revealed last month, there are currently only nine black British cricketers in the men’s first-class game, down from 33 in 1994.
“We are genuinely understanding that this is something that we're very committed to resolving we will work with any organisation that wants to work constructively with us,” said Harrison. “We're prepared to take responsibility for the fact that we haven't got this right in the past.”
But the ECB did not commission an independent inquiry into the lack of black representation in the sport, which Lonsdale Skinner, the chairman of the African Caribbean Cricketers’ Association and former Surrey player recently urged the governing body to do.