Australian players take a knee ahead of first T20

The Australian men's team 'condemns racial injustice and discrimination' as they take a knee ahead of the first T20 against the West Indies

The Australian men's cricket team took a knee for the first time in a stand against racism ahead of their series-opening T20 against West Indies in St Lucia on Saturday morning (AEST).

The West Indies, whose regular captain Kieron Pollard reinforced the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of the five-game T20 campaign, take a knee before every match but the Australian side had not previously done it before an international game.

Players from both teams performed the gesture, as did support staff who had assembled in front of the team dugout, alongside both on-field umpires.

Image Id: 316E1168044E4627B7DB73DADC0824AF Image Caption: The entire Australian touring party took a knee in St Lucia // cricket.com.au

An Australian team statement said they stood with the Windies "in condemning racial injustice and discrimination".

"As a team we'll continue to educate ourselves, provide support where possible, and create awareness for those who are victims of racial injustice, and/or discrimination in any form," the statement read.

"We kneel alongside our West Indian friends to recognise and show our support of all those who have been victims of racial injustice and/or discrimination, past and present."

It is not known whether Australia will continue to kneel for the remainder of the series.

Image Id: 47AC4A3D77974CACB63A42F7EC49AE7F Image Caption: The West Indies have taken a knee before all matches for the past year // Getty

Australia skipper Aaron Finch had raised the issue of kneeling with Pollard on Thursday at the pre-series captain's photoshoot at the hotel both sides are staying at.

Pollard later told reporters he did not want opposition teams to take a knee just "because the West Indies are doing it".

"For me it's very important, but it's one where I just don't want (teams) to just say that 'we are doing this because we are supporting you guys in this'," the veteran allrounder said.

"You need to be educated about it and you need to understand what you're doing. It's not a matter of us just doing it and you supporting us and we're looking for that sympathy.

"It's one (issue) that's very dear to our hearts. There's a lot of social injustice going around the world when it comes to black people and it's something that we want to continue to educate, not just ourselves, but the entire world to see if we can get on that level playing field.

Image Id: DB71600E74A54113B9AA08F7E25ED7E2 Image Caption: Big Bash players took a knee during last summer // Getty

"I'm guessing there's been a lot of education in Australia about that, about the Aboriginal persons, the original inhabitants of Australia, and a lot more education being taken so guys can understand the magnitude of the situation and not just do it because the West Indies are doing it."

The West Indies' playing shirts have a 'Black Lives Matter' logo printed on the right sleeve, which has a clenched fist in the place of the letter 'A'.

The movement gained momentum in the aftermath of the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of a white policeman in Minneapolis last year.

Two members of the Australian XI playing in the first T20, Dan Christian (a Wiradjuri man and one of just six Indigenous people to play for Australia at international level) and Moises Henriques (of Portuguese descent) have previously shared experiences of racism in cricket.

Some players took a knee last summer during the men's and women's Big Bash Leagues, a gesture West Indies legend Michael Holding has stressed is the most important way to support the movement.

Ahead of the last home summer, the national men's and women's teams took part in barefoot circles in a bid to acknowledge traditional Indigenous owners of the land, while the ritual also took place before W/BBL games and during the Marsh Sheffield Shield.

Asked about the BLM movement on Thursday, Australia coach Justin Langer stressed his side was committed to stamping out racism.

"We will stand united with West Indies, as India did with us during the summer being part of the barefoot circle," Langer said.

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"We'll stand united with West Indian cricket as a sign of respect for them and use cricket as a platform to deal with this stain of racism and social injustice around the world."

The men's team came in for criticism on its limited-overs tour of the United Kingdom last year for an indifferent attitude to the BLM movement, with team leaders later expressing regret about how they approached the issue.

Holding, who has been widely lauded for his leadership in detailing racial injustice and prompting action, described Australia's response to the BLM movement as "lame".

"Obviously not only as a sport but we as people are absolutely against racism," Australia quick Pat Cummins said last November. "I think we could probably put our hands up and say we haven't done enough in the past and we want to get better."

Last year, Christian said on 'Cricket Connecting Country', a panel discussion commissioned by Cricket Australia dealing with racism issues in the game, that the discrimination he has faced has tended to not be "as in your face as you might see elsewhere".

But Henriques, speaking as part of the 'Reflect Forward' campaign led by Indigenous Melbourne Renegades bowler Josh Lalor, detailed how he was racially abused in a Sheffield Shield game at the WACA Ground in Perth.

"They weren't racist jokes I hadn't heard from my mates (before) but out in the middle, just two batters and the eleven fielders, no one was doing anything," Henriques recalled.

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"I remember saying to the umpire, 'Are you going to do anything about this? It's not acceptable'. But I remember reflecting after that game and I thought, 'I've let my own friends say that to me'."

Test captain Tim Paine conceded he too had paid little attention to racism issues before last summer.

"I was probably someone, if I'm totally honest, that had my head in the sand a little bit because it wasn’t part of my world, I didn't have it as a big issue," Paine said in a conversation with Cummins as part of the Reflect Forward campaign.

"That's really opened my eyes to issues Indigenous people, Black people and people of all cultures around the world go through. I had just turned a blind eye a bit … I probably didn't realise how bad it was for people, even nowadays."

Qantas Tour of the West Indies 2021

Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Dan Christian, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa. Travelling reserves: Nathan Ellils, Tanveer Sangha.

West Indies T20 squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Nicholas Pooran (vc), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Kevin Sinclair, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr

T20 series
(all matches at the Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia)

First T20: July 10, 9.30am AEST (July 9, 7.30pm local)

Second T20: July 11, 9.30am AEST (July 10, 7.30pm local)

Third T20: July 13, 9.30am AEST (July 12, 7.30pm local)

Fourth T20: July 15, 9.30am AEST (July 14, 7.30pm local)

Fifth T20: July 17, 9.30am AEST (July 16, 7.30pm local)

ODI series
(all matches at Kensington Oval, Barbados)

First ODI (D/N): July 21, 4.30am AEST (July 20, 2.30pm local)

Second ODI (D/N): July 23, 4.30am AEST (July 22, 2.30pm local)

Third ODI (D/N): July 25, 4.30am AEST (July 24, 2.30pm local)

* Details of five-match T20 tour of Bangladesh are yet to be announced by the Bangladesh Cricket Board. Tours are subject to agreement on bio-security arrangements and relevant government approvals.

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