Shining a light on England’s Black cricketers

Chance to Shine has teamed up with Wisden to celebrate the work of England’s Black cricketers during Black History Month. In conjunction with the charity, the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast spoke to players including Roland Butcher, Devon Malcolm and Alex Tudor to discuss their careers, the challenges they faced and how the game can support more people from Black backgrounds to take part.

Malcolm, a long-time Chance to Shine Ambassador, reveals how he, and other players from Caribbean backgrounds like Gladstone Small, felt they had their loyalty to England unduly put under the microscope: “They were only questioning guys of West Indian background… ‘Is it in the blood?’ ‘Can we perform 100 per cent for England because of colonialism or because we were born in the Caribbean?’”. But Malcolm accepted it to avoid putting his career in jeopardy. “If I stand up too hard here, I’ll probably lose my opportunity to play cricket”.

Tudor, who played 13 times for England, talks about having to control his anger and frustration when receiving racially charged comments from teammates in the dressing room and having to tell them that use of the N-word was unacceptable. This is something that England Women’s first Black cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent has echoed; speaking on Sky Sports at the start of the summer, she spoke powerfully about receiving comments based on racial stereotypes and the debilitating effect of being constantly undermined because of the colour of her skin. Tudor thinks it comes from a lack of education and ignorance: “That’s how they were brought up, that’s what they were around, that’s all they knew”.

Education is also a theme of Butcher’s view of the way forward. Not only for the dressing rooms of first-class counties but for the grassroots and the administration of the game: “Where cricket has to change is on the committees and in the board rooms. Cricket has to wake up and do its bit”. Rainford-Brent, a trustee of Chance to Shine, is certainly doing her bit. Her Afro-Caribbean Engagement (ACE) programme is a scholarship programme for talented cricketers from Black backgrounds.

Listen to the podcast here or search ‘Wisden Cricket Weekly’ on your preferred podcast supplier.

Chance to Shine is also committing to sourcing funding to support a new approach to increasing participation amongst Black communities. Chief Executive Laura Cordingley said: “As a charity we’re tremendously proud of the work we have done over the last 15 years, but we are always striving to do better. We will be working extremely hard to find funding and then to build a comprehensive plan that will help to bring the game to children who may not have had that opportunity in the past.”

Chance to Shine has recently provided schools with a series of resources for Primary and Secondary Schools to celebrate Black History Month. Isabelle Arif, a teacher at Camelot Primary School in Peckham, said: “The Chance to Shine resources have been a great way for our pupils to learn about the Black cricketers who have played for England. Many of them had never heard of the players before and so it’s been brilliant to celebrate them as part of our Black History Month curriculum. Role models like Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan and Sophia Dunkley open the children’s eyes to what they can achieve if they set their mind to it.”

The resources can be downloaded from chancetoshine.org/bhm

Phil Walker, Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief, said: “Without Black cricketers, English cricket would be a much duller place. The brilliance of the likes of Malcolm, Defreitas, the Butchers, Tudor and now Archer and Jordan are built into our history and identity. If it’s lost, our game will be all the weaker for it. Archer is a gift to the English game, and one we should cherish and protect. He cannot be the last in a long and shimmering line of great cricketers who have touched and elevated the English game.”

Wisden’s Diversity series is running in Wisden Cricket Monthly and on wisden.com. Subscribe to Wisden Cricket Monthly at wisdensubs.com (print edition) or wcmdigi.com (digital edtion)

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