Girls participate in games of cricket during the launch of the South Asian Communities Action Plan in Leyton, London
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What has English cricket been like for black players?

Ebony Rainford-Brent, Tymal Mills, Roland Butcher, Donovan Miller, Michael Holding, Tino Best, Chesney Hughes and others talk about their experiences

Interviews by George Dobell  |  

The widespread anti-racist protests in the United States and other parts of the world in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd have led to greater light being shone on systemic racism in every area of life. In cricket the conversation began after Daren Sammy spoke out about the racist nickname given to him by his former IPL team-mates, and former England batsman Michael Carberry said "cricket is rife with racism".

We spoke to several other players of Afro-Caribbean heritage who have played professional cricket in England over the years about their experiences in the country: Roland Butcher, the first black man to represent England, who now works as a coach and an educator in the game; Ebony Rainford-Brent, the first black woman to represent England, who currently works as a broadcaster, coach and Surrey board member; Chesney Hughes, a batsman who played for Derbyshire between 2010 and 2016; Donovan Miller, a former fast bowler who has been head coach in various T20 leagues and a part of England's coaching team during the 2019 World Cup; Arthur Godsal, a 22-year-old seamer who has played for England Under-19 and Middlesex; Tymal Mills, England fast bowler and broadcaster, and the most recent British-born player of Afro-Caribbean descent to represent England; Michael Holding, former West Indies fast bowler and broadcaster who has played county cricket as an overseas player and lives in the UK for much of the year; Tino Best, former West Indies fast bowler, who played county and league cricket in England; and Dr Richard Sargeant, an academic, educator and former cricketer.

"You can tell everything you need to know about the mindset of cricket in England that the game between Eton and Harrow is played at Lord's" Roland Butcher

Have you experienced direct racism in cricket in England?

Donovan Miller: I have, on several occasions. A few years ago - 2009, I think - I was playing in a Minor Counties match when one of the opposition - a guy who had just retired after a first-class career - kept asking me if I had any bananas in my bag. I asked what he meant and all his team-mates laughed. He asked me a few more times. I've never told anyone this before, but afterwards I walked out of the back of the dressing rooms and broke down in tears.

Ebony Rainford-Brent: (sighs) Yeah. I don't really want to talk about it. But even recently, now I'm at board level at Surrey and have a master's degree in chemistry, someone made a joke about being nervous about where they'd parked their car. "You'd know all about car theft, wouldn't you, Ebz," they laughed. Why? Because I'm black? I don't know if this is ignorance or racism. As a player, a coach would refer to me as "your lot". I'd hear mentions of my hair or my bum. People would say the food I was eating was "stinky". Very often these things get dressed up as banter and I kind of believe that the people saying them don't necessarily mean to be cruel. But I've been the only black woman in 99% of the teams I've been in and this "banter" is incredibly isolating. I absolutely understand why other people wouldn't want to keep putting themselves through it.

Tymal Mills: No, I've not experienced anything like that. Maybe, if I look back, there has been some dressing-room banter that might have been perceived as stereotyping. But I've never experienced anything that I felt was malicious.

Roland Butcher: Not really. Once I heard someone in the crowd say "There's five of them!" as I walked out after tea with my Middlesex colleagues. There were, at the time, five black men in that side. I don't know if I've been lucky, but no player or spectator ever said anything racist directly to me. But I heard and saw things directed at other players. I don't know why, because it just fired him up, but Sylvester Clarke used to attract the most abuse. And always in Yorkshire. They threw bananas at him. I always thought it showed just how stupid they were. The last thing you want your team to face is an angry Sylvester Clarke.

Tymal Mills:

Tymal Mills: "I'm the last UK-born black man to represent England, but I don't remember thinking about that at the time. At both clubs I've played for - Essex and Sussex - we've had a pretty diverse squad" Christopher Lee / © Getty Images

Chesney Hughes: I played for eight years. Apart from one complete idiot, I always felt embraced by white players and spectators from both my side and the opposition. As for the administrators, I'm not saying they were intentionally racist, but I felt there was a lack of understanding of my background and culture that left me feeling alienated.

Arthur Godsal: No.

Richard Sargeant: Of course. And the fact that you're horrified by that is part of the problem. The thing is, you middle-class white boys have had a decent education and you talk to other middle-class white boys who have also had a decent education. You're not racist and you can't believe that other people would be. But that's led you to be complacent on the issue. And that complacency makes you complicit.

I was banned for life by my club in Birmingham. They had arranged to play a South African touring side during the apartheid years - it was 1981 - and I thought that was wrong. In partnership with their other black player, Michael Moseley, the cousin of Hallam [Moseley, the former Barbados and Somerset fast bowler], we decided to refuse to play for a period of about eight games. A journalist got in touch and the story in the local paper quoted me as saying our treatment was "outrageous" and that we had "slaved" for the club. I did say those things. And I meant them.

There wasn't any official ban from the league, but other clubs saw me as a troublemaker and wouldn't touch me. In the end, the Bishop of Lichfield got involved and brokered an agreement where another club offered me a place. I can't say I ever felt welcome there. I had to play for the seconds for ages. After my first over for the first team, Mushtaq Mohammad, who was fielding at mid-off, said to the captain, "Where have you been hiding this guy?"

"Someone made a joke about being nervous about where they'd parked their car. 'You'd know all about car theft, wouldn't you, Ebz,' they laughed. Why? Because I'm black?" Ebony Rainford-Brent

A few years ago - every bit of 30 years later - the club that banned me invited me to become a vice-president. That was a nice thought, I said to myself. But when I went back, one of the club officials said, "You've really mellowed", and I realised it wasn't a case of them thinking they were apologising to me; it was a case of them thinking they were forgiving me. I was horrified. So no, I don't see a lot of change or progress.

Michael Holding: I remember the summer in 1976, England, when letters would come to the dressing room for us [West Indies] players, with racist messages: "Go back home, crawl back to the trees", and such. We as a team decided to ignore them and I personally could do that easy because I knew I was going back home after the tour and I didn't face that every day. It also made me understand and appreciate why the West Indies cricket team's performance mattered so much to black people in the UK. They could walk with their heads held high to their workplaces next morning. They could look into the eyes of their colleagues and feel, "I know I am as good as you."

In cricket, the racial abuse I have experienced came mostly from the crowds. I wasn't abused once by an Australian or English player. The crowd would pile it on, of course, and that's why I believe racism is a societal problem. It's not to say that there aren't players who don't feel racially arrogant, but the point I am making is that you have to tackle it by cleansing the society.

In 2016, Chesney Hughes scored 806 runs at 53.73 with three hundreds and four fifties for Derbyshire, but he failed to get a contract anywhere for the next season

In 2016, Chesney Hughes scored 806 runs at 53.73 with three hundreds and four fifties for Derbyshire, but he failed to get a contract anywhere for the next season Clive Rose / © Getty Images

Tino Best: I would say I encountered subtle racism. Nobody ever referred directly to the colour of my skin, and I only ever felt love and respect from English crowds. But there would be little things said which I felt were disrespectful and designed to get a reaction. Once in county cricket and several times in the leagues I was told to "go back to your own country". Well, I'm a proud man and I was never going to let that go. And every time I reacted, that became the story.

I know Carbs [Carberry] pretty well. I've sat with him and listened to his stories. And man, I was in tears. He played six Tests. I honestly think that if he had been white, he would have played 60.

Sargeant: Once, my own captain abused me. I drifted behind square leg in the field and, by doing so, conceded a no-ball. It was a dozy thing to do, but my captain called me a "stupid w**". He was a well-known man from a respected family.

Miller: I was trialling for a county 2nd XI. There were two black guys there, and at one stage, in fielding practice, we both fumbled the ball within a few minutes of one another. "Is this a black thing?" the coach shouted at us. I glared at him. And guess what? I was never asked back.

Tell us about your experiences in the English game

Miller: I was a teenager when I came to live in the UK [Miller was born in Jamaica]. At the time, it took seven years to qualify to play, so I was probably never going to make it as a professional. Instead I played club, Minor County and some county 2nd XI cricket. One thing that struck me was that I never saw a black coach. Older black guys would talk about it as if there was some barrier. It just didn't seem to be an available career choice. And as I grew older, I noticed there were almost no young black players coming through.

"My son is a really talented cricketer. But he prefers basketball and football. Why? Because there are people playing the game who look like him. Cricket doesn't seem relevant or welcoming to him" Donovan Miller

Sargeant: I came to the UK in 1969 as a 15-year-old. I went to the same school in Barbados as Joel Garner - we've remained lifelong friends - and Jofra Archer. I could bowl fast. It opened doors for me. But I wouldn't accept injustice and, because of that, I was labelled as awkward. Basically I called out racism whenever I saw it, and because of that I was ostracised.

Hughes: I was the leading run scorer in the country for much of the 2016 season. I finished it averaging more than 50. But I didn't have a contract anywhere in 2017. Can you imagine that happening to a white player?

Rainford-Brent: My journey isn't typical. It's been full of luck and I sort of feel I progressed in spite of the system rather than because of it. I was kind of talent-spotted and championed by a lady called Jenny Wostrack. My mum worked nights so couldn't always drive me to games, but Jenny did. And if I had any issues, she fought my battles for me. She showed me how to knock in a bat and how to apply for grants. Not everyone has that, do they? And we can't just have a game that is open to people who do. After a while our team played the Surrey Academy and we beat them. And I remember thinking it was a bit odd that there were no black faces in the academy side.

Godsal: I fell in love with cricket when my mum enrolled me in a summer-holiday course at Ealing CC. All my family were keen on the game but no one played. My mum knew how much I liked sport and thought I'd enjoy it. I was lucky. I didn't go to private school, but my family were hugely supportive and drove me around to make sure I could go to training sessions and games. It was difficult at times and I couldn't have managed without their support. I was released by Middlesex midway through the 2017 season. I was disappointed. I had been in their system from U-11 level and played for England U-19s just a few months earlier. I had a knee injury at the time and hoped they'd stick with me. Since then I've trialled at various counties. I haven't given up.

Like Ebony Rainford-Brent (throwing the ball), many black players grow up having to navigate a system in which they hardly come across other black peers or mentors

Like Ebony Rainford-Brent (throwing the ball), many black players grow up having to navigate a system in which they hardly come across other black peers or mentors Nigel French / © PA Photos/Getty Images

Hughes: Derbyshire offered me a two-year deal in 2016. But although I was doing well against the new ball - I batted in the top three - I knew I had some work to do against spin. So instead of spending the winter in the UK, I wanted to go and play first-class cricket for Leeward Islands over the winter. I had played for them the previous winter and I really thought my batting and spin bowling would improve on those slow, low, turning wickets. But Derbyshire said no. They wanted me to stay in Derby and work on my game there. I could maybe understand Derbyshire's stance if they had applied it to everyone. But they let two of the other guys go and play grade cricket in Australia while they wouldn't let me go and play first-class cricket. How does that make sense? When I realised they were letting other guys go to Australia but trying to keep me in Derbyshire, I just wanted to get away. I started to look at the alternatives and agreed a deal with the Leeward Islands.

I came back to England in 2017 on holiday. My agent phoned one day and said Northants were struggling with injuries. So I signed a short-term deal with them. Put simply, I didn't do well enough [with them]. I could make excuses, but it wouldn't make any difference. They gave me a chance and I didn't take it.

I came back again in 2018. It was tough. I was sofa-surfing. But I went back to Derbyshire and said, "Let's put the past behind us. How about a trial in the seconds?" I averaged 189 in the 2nd XI Championship. I played two games and scored big hundreds in both of them, and then another 164 and 68 in two other red-ball matches against Kent and Glamorgan respectively. I spoke to Derbyshire, Kent and Leicestershire. Everyone said all the right things, but I didn't get an offer. Again, I ask you: would that happen to a white player?

Mills: My story is probably a bit unusual. There wasn't any family interest in the sport, and I lived in the Suffolk countryside. But one day, when I was 14, a friend's team was one short for a game and asked me to play. I agreed and as the match was coming to an end, they let me bowl one over as a way of saying thanks for coming. It turned out I could bowl fast and I hit one of the batsmen. As a result, I played for them for the rest of the season.

"One thing I noticed growing up is that I just didn't see any other black faces. Not at any stage of the pathway. Not at clubs or at regional level" Arthur Godsal

From there, I was picked to play for Suffolk. At U-17 level, my coach, John Childs, was running the Essex Academy, and I was invited for a trial. It was a three-day 2nd XI game against Glamorgan and I took four wickets in the first innings and another in the second. They offered me an academy contract there and then. I was brought up in a single-parent family and my mum couldn't drive. Just getting to games or training could be tough. But once I was in the Essex system, they helped me access various grants that enabled me to keep going.

It became pretty obvious I could bowl faster than anyone in my age group. Faster than most of those in the older age groups too. It was enough to get me picked for England U-19s. I didn't do very well; all I could do was bowl fast back then and I wasn't fit enough or good enough, but I signed for Essex and went from there.

Best: At league level, I struggled with the umpires more than anything. At one stage I gave a batsman a bit of a glare as he ran past for a single. After the match, I was called in to see the umpires and they accused me of shoulder-barging the player. It was ridiculous. Even the batsman said I didn't do it. So then the umpire said, "I saw you play against Middlesex last year and you bowled two high full tosses." What did that have to do with it? It just felt as if he was waiting for an opportunity to cut me down to size.

In another league, I bowled this batsman with all three stumps out of the ground, but then there was this late no-ball call. The next delivery was a high full toss - it shouldn't have happened and I apologised immediately - but it was the end of me in that league. In some ways I felt I had fallen for a trick: they tried to wind me up and I reacted.

I hardly saw another black face when I played in the leagues.

Arthur Godsal wrote his dissertation on the obstacles for entry into professional cricket for African-Caribbean people in the UK.

Arthur Godsal wrote his dissertation on the obstacles for entry into professional cricket for African-Caribbean people in the UK. "Socio-economic factors were a crucial barrier, but the lack of role models and the growth in popularity of football, basketball and rugby were also relevant" © Arthur Godsal

By the end of 2019, there were only one or two UK-born black men playing first-class cricket in England. Does that shock you?

Rainford-Brent: I knew it was bad. I'm not sure I knew it was that bad - 42% of ten-19-year-olds in the borough of Lambeth, where The Oval sits, are black, yet the last three black players to walk through the gates of The Oval as home-team players are me, Alex Tudor and Michael Carberry. That can't be right. I hope Jofra does inspire people. He should, because he is an incredible player, but let's not lose sight of the fact that Jofra didn't come through the English system.

Godsal: One thing I noticed growing up is that I just didn't see any other black faces. Not at any stage of the pathway. Not at clubs or at regional level. And the vast majority of coaching staff and management are white. There are very few coaching staff of African-Caribbean descent, which must have a significant impact on attracting young black players. Eventually I played with Delray Rawlins at U-17 level and again with the England U-19s when we toured India. But that was about it.

Mills: Not really. I knew that once you included the qualification of being British-born and state-educated, it would be a very small group. I didn't play with or against many other black kids growing up.

"Racism is a societal problem. It's not to say that there aren't players who don't feel racially arrogant, but you have to tackle it by cleansing the society" Michael Holding

Butcher: You can tell everything you need to know about the mindset of cricket in England that the game between Eton and Harrow is played at Lord's.

Why are there so few black players in county cricket now?

Sargeant: There are many reasons. But if you're looking for two, there are these: we sold off the school playing fields and we stopped playing the game in comprehensive schools. There is, in general, less inherited wealth in the Afro-Caribbean communities, so there are fewer people from that background in the private schools. I don't think clubs that would traditionally be seen as "white" feel they need to reach out. They get [their players] from the private schools. They haven't felt any need to embrace diversity.

Rainford-Brent: We've never really reached out and tried to connect with communities outside the mainstream. We have become an exclusive club and this issue hasn't even been on the agenda. It can cost £40 to join a club. In some communities that may as well be £40 million.

Miller: My son is a really talented cricketer. But he doesn't even enjoy watching the game. He prefers basketball and football. Why? Because there are people playing the game who look like him. Cricket doesn't seem relevant or welcoming to him.

Butcher: There are lots of reasons. For one thing, you have to remember, the West Indies side of the 1970 and '80s were extraordinary. I think Clive Lloyd only utilised 19 men during his tenure as captain, so a lot of very good players [from the Caribbean] were persuaded to look elsewhere in search of professional cricket. So the figures from those years, when there were lots more black players in county cricket, maybe need to be taken in a bit of context.

Donovan Miller:

Donovan Miller: "I've been a head coach in the CPL, the Global T20 in Canada, the MSL, and I've been the bowling coach in the PSL. But can I get a job in England?" © Donovan Miller

We have to look at where the black kids who did end up in county cricket came from too. Several really good players - the likes of Mark Alleyne and Keith Piper - came through Haringey Cricket College. But that was never really part of the system. It was formed by the former Jamaican offspinner Reg Scarlett. Reg's enthusiasm masked problems that have been there for years.

At the same time, those young black people growing up in the UK now may feel more distant from the Caribbean. They probably weren't born there. Their parents might not have been either. Maybe they have never even visited. They're growing up as English, and the English game is football. Football is getting the cream of the crop because there are no barriers. In cricket there are loads of barriers.

Mills: It's about accessibility. It's an expensive sport, at least compared to football. You need equipment and you need to be able to travel. Both those things can be difficult. If you're at all disadvantaged, I can understand why you would think it's not the sport for you.

Godsal: I wrote my dissertation at university on the barriers and opportunities facing African-Caribbean people in the UK breaking into professional cricket. I concluded that socio-economic factors were a crucial barrier. But the lack of role models and the growth in popularity of football, basketball and rugby were also relevant. Cricket just isn't seen as a sport that the best athletes from that community would want to follow. There are some cultural issues too. Sometimes teams are looking for a player who fits their mould. If you are slightly different, you might not be seen to fit. You have to be exceptional - like Jofra Archer or Chris Jordan - to overcome that.

What about coaching opportunities?

Miller: I've been a head coach in the CPL, the Global T20 in Canada and the MSL [in South Africa], and I've been the bowling coach in the PSL. But can I get a job in England? It was difficult to get on the coaching courses. I had to set up my own academy for late developers aged between 16 and 22. I presented my work to the ECB tutor panel; that's how I get the nod. I couldn't even find who to talk to ahead of the Hundred. Everywhere else I've worked, I've had a chance to show my skills and win promotion.

"At a basic level, counties need to build partnerships with clubs where black players still play" Dr Richard Sargeant

You think because you saw me with the England squad during the World Cup that everything is okay? Let me tell you how that came about: I volunteered to coach at Essex for free. I drove 30 miles every morning, paying for my own petrol, and threw and caught for whoever wanted it for as long as they wanted it. I did it for at least two years. Again, I've never told anyone this, but I've never asked to be paid a pound by Essex. I don't think the Essex players will know that. I did it to gain opportunity and, to some extent, it has opened doors. I'm very grateful to Essex extending that opportunity. They helped fund my Level 4 coaching course too. They are a good club. After a while, Alastair Cook asked me to join the England squad ahead of a Test so I could give him throwdowns. From there, Chris Silverwood asked me to help out during the World Cup. One thing I must say: that England environment is excellent. It's full of love and support and diversity. Silverwood is a very good man. By the time you get to that level, there are no issues. But getting there is tough.

Butcher: I don't believe black people are getting the opportunities they should be in coaching and management. You can't tell me there haven't been some fantastic black candidates. There seems to be this belief that "they can play, but they can't manage". It comes down to trust. They don't trust us with the responsibility of running a professional club. You might call it unconscious bias. I don't see any improvement in this regard. It's getting worse, if anything. And I don't think we should be afraid to say it. No one is asking for a handout; we're asking for a level playing field.

What are the other issues?

Butcher: Football has understood the value of top players - and I do mean commercial value - so they have scouted, identified and developed talent wherever it could be found. But cricket? If an outstanding world-class player like Jofra Archer comes knocking on the door, they'll probably let him in. But I don't see a lot of effort going into developing them from scratch.

Sargeant: There is a growing black middle-class in the UK. I wouldn't want you to portray all black people in the UK as poor. That would be to sustain an unhelpful stereotype.

Dr Richard Sargeant:

Dr Richard Sargeant: "I called out racism whenever I saw it, and because of that I was ostracised" © Richard Sargeant

I'd ask how a black person is meant to feel when they go to Lord's - the so-called home of cricket - and there is a stand named after a man whose family wealth was built on slavery. I'd ask how you are meant to feel when you know the MCC, in recent times, appointed a man as president who led a rebel tour to South Africa during the apartheid years. And I'd ask whether there would be support for the recall of a young black man who had been seen fighting in the street and had failed a drugs test. I think when you consider these factors, you can see why the game in England doesn't seem as inviting to black people as it should.

Rainford-Brent: People I was at school with have gone on to become doctors and lawyers and accountants. Let's not pretend all black people live in the ghetto. And I'd like to mention the women's game, too. It's gone under the radar in this regard, but it is not very diverse.

Holding: There was brainwashing in the Caribbean too. I remember, as a kid, I was once walking in New York with a friend. I saw a white man lying in the gutter and I was so shocked that I just froze. She asked me, "You didn't think a white man could be poor?" I clearly didn't at that point. That image has always stayed with me - the moment I realised how I was brainwashed. "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery." We, as people, have to recognise the brainwashing. Look at some of the biblical teaching. The picture they show of Jesus - blond hair and blue eyes. Really? Nobody in the part of the world where Jesus was supposed to have lived had that colour.

Hughes: I think it would be helpful to see more black coaches. The issue at the moment is that so few people know what you've had to go through to get where you are. If there was more empathy and understanding, there would be more patience.

" It will be interesting to see if things are different the next time we all get together in dressing rooms, if the way cricket is governed and the way people speak to one another changes" Tymal Mills

What can be done to improve things?

Miller: Well, there's a South Asian Action Plan. That's a brilliant thing. I support it fully. I wonder if there could be a similar plan put in place to encourage the Afro-Caribbean community? And we need a coaching pathway. Nobody is asking for a handout. We just want fair opportunities.

Sargeant: At a basic level, counties need to build partnerships with clubs where black players still play. So I would, for example, like to see Warwickshire build closer links with Handsworth CC in Birmingham. I still think there's some latent interest in cricket among the older members of the Afro-Caribbean community in the UK, but you need a magnifying glass to find the black kids in recreational cricket these days.

Butcher: I think diversity training might help for those in management and administration. This does feel like a watershed moment. I hope we harness it.

Surrey's Afro-Caribbean Engagement programme, led by Rainford-Brent, could be a way to build the game in a community long alienated from English cricket

Surrey's Afro-Caribbean Engagement programme, led by Rainford-Brent, could be a way to build the game in a community long alienated from English cricket Jordan Mansfield / © Surrey CCC/Getty Images

Rainford-Brent: My theory is we have to take note of the characteristics of inner-city communities and re-engineer our game so it is accessible. We've set up the ACE [Afro-Caribbean Engagement] programme at The Oval. It's aimed at 11-18-year-olds. I was very nervous ahead of the first day of trials. I'd persuaded the club to go for this idea, but we didn't really know how many people were going to turn up or what level of talent they might have. It turns out it was incredible. A hundred people turned up. We had kids who showed exceptional talent. I reckon there were three guys who could have gone straight into Surrey's age-group teams. We were planning on giving 16 scholarships and we ended up giving 26. And here's the funny thing: pretty much none of those kids were affiliated to our mainstream cricket clubs. So where were they learning those skills? It wasn't perfect: of the 100, only seven were girls and we only offered two scholarships to them. But it showed the scheme could work. If we target our help in the right way, we can make a difference. I'm excited by the thought.

Mills: I like Ebony's ACE programme. We need more schemes like that. I'd like to see clubs reach out a bit more into schools.

How do you reflect on your experiences now?

Rainford-Brent: I'm actually a bit ashamed of not speaking up sooner. I didn't want to jeopardise my selection. I didn't want to be seen as a troublemaker. I kept my mouth shut and tried to keep the pain inside. I've gone home and cried more than once. I just didn't feel I had the energy to expend in fighting something so huge and unbeatable. I'm full of admiration for people like Michael Carberry who had the guts to tell their story.

"It can cost £40 to join a club. In some communities that may as well be £40 million" Ebony Rainford-Brent

Mills: I feel I've been quite lucky, really. I'm the last UK-born black man to represent England, but I don't remember thinking about that at the time. At both clubs I've played for - Essex and Sussex - we've had a pretty diverse squad. But I welcome these conversations. It will be interesting to see if things are different the next time we all get together in dressing rooms. It will be interesting to see if the way cricket is governed and the way people speak to one another changes.

Hughes: My agent wanted me to push back more at the time. He said, "There's prejudice here; you should complain." But I thought I could just move on. I thought, "I'll make a fresh start and show them what they missed." I probably should have challenged things more. Looking back now, I just feel sad. I knew I could play. I could have gone a long way. I'm still in my twenties and there are still some opportunities in the Caribbean. I haven't given up.

Miller: Whatever you say, you're in the wrong. If you answer back when someone abuses you, you're the one who is seen to have lost their cool. You cannot win. And it can feel very demotivating.

Are you optimistic we'll see more cricketers of Afro-Caribbean heritage playing in England in the future?

Butcher: It would take a huge effort. You would have to change the whole system. You would have to bring in new expertise. You would need real drive and investment. I don't see many signs of that happening.

Jofra Archer is one of the most exciting talents England have had in recent years, but he doesn't come from the English system

Jofra Archer is one of the most exciting talents England have had in recent years, but he doesn't come from the English system Jordan Mansfield / © Getty Images

Rainford-Brent: I think so. The ACE project has just started, but the early results are encouraging and they show that if we put in the work, we will get the rewards. It's nonsense that there's no interest out there. It just needs to be encouraged. I truly believe the project could be adopted by other clubs and other sports. At the moment, the game is only selling to one segment in the market. If we invest in these areas for five or ten years, we could open up a whole new market.

And just the fact that I've spent the week doing interviews like this - it feels people are listening a bit. That's encouraging. Honestly, I've not spoken about these things for years because you know you'll get typecast as angry or difficult or bitter. I've been really depressed about it. It's actually up to white people to make it better.

Mills: I think it might take a very long time. To give an informed answer, you'd need to know the numbers playing at county U-15 level who then go to make it through the academy to become professionals. But I'd think that anything we put in place now might take ten, 15, even 20 years to bear fruit.

Holding: There is no single person responsible for systemic racism and that's why people have to come together to beat it. And you have to change it from the grassroots, systematically. The burden of change, though, shouldn't be on the kids. It's the adults who need to change. The white people who don't speak up are part of the problem. It should be clear by now that silence isn't going to solve it. It's 2020: if we don't change now, then when?

Sargeant: I think you have to be optimistic. The alternative is not constructive. But we do have to acknowledge the damage is incredibly deep and that to turn things around would take an enormous and sustained effort. So you tell me: is there the will to do it?

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

 

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