England and West Indies to take a knee
➤ Players agree on show of unity as Test cricket returns ➤ Broad set to be axed as home side look to Archer and Wood
England and West Indies will take a knee for 30 seconds before the start of the first Test today in a unified show of support with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Both teams had already announced that they would wear a Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts for the three-match series.
Now they have agreed to kneel before play at the Ageas Bowl, believing it will be a powerful symbol against racial inequality that could resonate in the sporting world and beyond.
The International Cricket Council has prohibited political symbols or statements during games, but has already said that it does not regard protesting against racism as a political statement, so will not punish the teams.
While declining to say whether his side would take a knee, stand-in Test captain Ben Stokes said: “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.
“I feel 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.
“We aren’t in any way, shape or form showing support towards any political matters on the movement.
“We are all about the 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.”
Stokes said that England were building towards returning to Test No1 as he prepared to stand in for Joe Root as England’s 81st Test captain.
“We have a goal of being the best team in the world, so we are building towards that,” Stokes said.
“If you are not performing well as a player, there is someone who is right behind you to come in, which is a great place to be at.”
In a sign of how competitive the bowling group now is, last night England were leaning heavily towards omitting Stuart Broad from the side and selecting both Jofra Archer and Mark Wood alongside James Anderson. England have prioritised a varied attack as they build on the 3-1 Test victory in South Africa. Wood took 12 wickets at 13.58 in the last two Tests of that series, mounting a compelling case to retain his place.
Broad has not missed a home Test since 2012, when he was rested against West Indies. His form has
not dipped, having taken 52 wickets at 24.07 since the start of 2019, and, even if he is omitted, he is certain to feature later this summer.
Chris Woakes, the other seamer set to be left out, will also be involved during England’s run of six Tests in seven weeks. Omitting spinner Dom Bess and picking a five-man seam attack is another option, but it is unlikely because the Ageas Bowl wicket offered some turn during the warm-up games.
“It’s not very often we have been in this situation where we have six or seven bowlers we could choose from,” Stokes said.
“It obviously gives the captain and the selectors an absolute nightmare because you can only pick so many. From the bigger picture, it’s a great place to be in as a team.
“I feel as if we are in a position now with the Test team like we were with the one-day team in 2015 when we were building for that World Cup.
“I feel as if we are building for the Ashes in Australia and also India.”
‘Joe has been very open and willing to listen to advice. I would be stupid to go away from that.’
Ahead of his first Test as captain, Stokes has been discussing the role with Root, who misses the Test for the birth of his second child.
“Rooty just left a message on the hanger which said, ‘Do it your way’,” Stokes said.
“It was just a bit of paper over the top of the hanger, I wasn’t really expecting it. It was a really nice message to receive and nice for Joe to think about me doing it for the first time. There’s been a lot of opinions flying around, but that was a really nice thought.
“I haven’t been on him too much, but I am sure when the Test match starts, I know for a fact he will be at home watching and I know that his phone will always be available for me to get in contact with him if I need to.
“I said when I first got asked that