Australia’s coach Justin Langer has admitted that the national team did not commit enough time to understanding and learning about the Black Lives Matter issue before choosing not to take a knee prior to their first game since the movement entered the cricket world in a big way earlier this year.
Following blunt criticism from Michael Holding, Langer said that as Cricket Australia went through its own extensive process of reflection about how inclusive it has been for people of colour, the team should have found more time to contemplate taking a knee before the opening match of the T20I series in Southampton.
“In terms of the taking a knee, to be completely honest we could’ve talked more about it perhaps leading up to that first game; there was so much going on leading up to us getting here, maybe we should’ve thought and talked a bit more about it,” Langer said. “What we do talk about in the team is we want to have a response that is sustained and powerful and it can go, not just in one action, but sustained periods, not just throughout this series, throughout our summer, but throughout time.
“We’re looking at ways, I know there’s a lot of talk going on within our group about how we can, I know there’s a lot of talking going on about the Australian women’s team as well, about how we can have a sustained and powerful response to Black Lives Matter. It’s incredibly important, and I just hope and certainly from Mikey’s point of view I hope if it looked like there was a lack of respect there, that certainly wasn’t the intention of our team.
“We’re very aware of it, and when Mikey says what he says, then it’s certainly worth listening to and we’ll be doing that.”
Prior to the game, Australia captain Aaron Finch had explained that “education around it is more important than the protest”, in reference to the symbolic gesture made by a succession of sporting teams around the world in recent months.
Holding had bridled at this attitude. “Now Australia come here and I see another lame statement from the Australia captain who is saying that he and the England captain have spoken and they decided not to take a knee,” Holding had said on Sky Sports. “I would hope that anyone who gets involved in something like this [does it] because they want to get involved.
“So I would hope that people who are joining in, and are still willing to accept that things need to change and need to send a signal, will voluntarily do what they think is right.”
Langer, who has overseen a reinvention of the Australian team’s image since the Newlands ball-tampering scandal in 2018, conceded he and others had been stopped in their tracks by Holding’s words.
“Michael Holding is one of the great people of world sport, and certainly our game,” Langer said. “He’s a person who I personally have great admiration, great respect, great love for, and we all watched his presentation, his heartfelt thoughts at the start of the summer. When someone like Michael says something like that, it is certainly important we all listen to it.
“It was a powerful statement by Mikey, as it has been consistently from him and from others throughout the summer, and because of that, it was a powerful message.”
Langer’s sentiments are in stark contrast to those of Barbadian-born England import Jofra Archer who criticized Holding over his remarks. Archer insisted nobody involved within the England set-up had “forgotten” about the movement and claimed progress was being made “in the background”.
“I’m pretty sure Michael Holding doesn’t know anything that is going on behind the scenes,” Archer said. “I don’t think he has spoken to [ECB chief executive] Tom Harrison.
“I’ve spoken to Tom and we have stuff running in the background. We’ve not forgotten. No-one here has forgotten about Black Lives Matter.
“I think that is a bit harsh for him to say that. I think it is a bit harsh for Mikey to not do some research before criticising,” Archer said.
But Holding, responding to Archer’s comments, told ESPNcricinfo there should be no conflict between taking action in the background and continuing to make a gesture in public.
“Taking a knee does not prevent other action from taking place,” Holding said. “Those who take a knee are not substituting the gesture for other positive action.
“Nobody should have a problem with it. It is a worldwide recognition of calling attention to racial prejudice and injustice.” (Cricinfo)