The one-off Bob Willis Trophy recently got underway and is providing excitement to cricket fans across the country, who are very glad that the county game has finally resumed. The competition has so far been heralded as a major success, yet there are fewer than 10 Black cricketers born or raised in the UK taking part.
This is not a figure that has drastically dropped this year either; it has been relatively steady for some time now. Clearly then, it represents a monumental failure in those of influence within the sport to encourage and facilitate greater minority representation. However, to correct these issues, greater research to unearth what has caused them in the first place must be done.
On the face of it, cricket should be becoming more inclusive, with Jofra Archer acting as a Black role model for young children, excelling in the national team and taking the world by storm with his terrifyingly fast deliveries. Furthermore, initiatives such as Luton Carribean Cricket Club have been established in the past few decades, to encourage those in poorer areas with large Black populations to fall in love with the sport. Nonetheless, the numbers do not lie; this is simply not enough.
The problem therefore must lie in the culture of English cricket, which is overwhelmingly portrayed as a White man’s sport by the media. Lord’s is often labelled the ‘Home of Cricket’, yet it prohibits the bashing of drums and blowing of conch shells commonplace elsewhere across the globe. Allowing cultural diversity in support will encourage fan participation in the sport, which often goes hand-in-hand with an increase in those playing the sport as well.
Certainly, the image of English and West Indian players alike taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as sporting its logo on their kits was a step in the right direction. However, much of this progress has arguably been undone by their failure to continue this show of solidarity into their subsequent series’ against Pakistan and Australia.
Cricket needs to do more than merely token gestures to encourage diversity in the English game in the future. Talents like Archer illustrate the potential rewards on offer if such a goal was achieved. For now, sadly, much work remains to be done.