England players on Wednesday night described how taking the knee had become “integral” to their cricket as divisions grew over Quinton de Kock’s refusal to observe the anti-racism gesture.
Opener Jason Roy said kneeling reflected the team’s commitment to tackling racism as both England and Bangladesh agreed to promote the anti-discrimination message before Wednesday’s T20 World Cup match in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking about the decision to take the knee after striking a match-winning 61 in England’s eight-wicket victory, Roy said: “It’s an integral part of the way we play our cricket.
“Our team is extremely diverse with people from all over the world. It’s only right that we support that and we support what they are going through.”
Previously, England have indicated that they would reciprocate any gesture preferred by their opponents, but it now seems increasingly likely the team will continue to take the knee in coming matches.
Next opponents Australia also kneel before matches with David Warner confirming the gesture will be observed for Thursday’s match with Sri Lanka.
It comes as divisions intensified on Wednesday over taking the knee as former players voiced both supportive and critical views on de Kock’s decision to pull out of South Africa’s clash with the West Indies after the entire team was ordered to support the gesture.
De Kock has remained in the South African camp but his immediate international future remained unclear on Wednesday night following fresh talks with Cricket South Africa.
Cricket South Africa said it was awaiting a report from team management before they decide whether to take any action. The board has mandated players to take the knee before all T20 World Cup matches as part of a “consistent stance” against racism.
In a statement, the board said de Kock remains “very much a part of the Proteas team and has not been sent home as some reports have incorrectly stated.”
The South African Cricketers’ Association on Wednesday accused Cricket South Africa of causing a “crisis” by instructing players to accept its directive.
Andrew Breetzke, the chief executive of the association, advocated a “uniform approach” to taking the knee, but said making it mandatory hours before the West Indies caused a “crisis” in the side.
As de Kock and the board consider their next moves, the predicament continued to attract fierce debate in the cricketing world, with high-profile former players both speaking up for and against the wicketkeeper-batter.
Adam Gilchrist, the former Australian Test wicketkeeper, said that de Kock was not racist, but that it was worth players continuing to take the knee.
“It seems Quinton de Kock is very active in being pro-Black Lives Matter, and supporting people of colour within that country,” Gilchrist said. “I think the gesture, if it’s going to help people move forward and heal, and create a stronger future, is probably worth doing.
“For Quinton, it’s about being told he has to do something when he doesn’t necessarily feel he needs to do it, that it’s become a bit tokenistic.”
Former England fast bowler Angus Fraser, now managing director of Middlesex, said that the situation was complex.
“It’s a difficult one isn’t it. Because of South Africa and because of apartheid people assume it’s racially motivated. I think it’s very difficult to impose that on an individual,” Fraser said.
But other players criticised de Kock’s actions.
Isa Guha, the former England fast bowler, who is now a leading commentator, said: “Are you against racism? Is there a collective way of showing this? The teams should be unified in this approach. If you are defiant in your actions then there need to be repercussions.”
And former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, who was jailed following a spot-fixing scandal, said: “It was decided for everyone (by Cricket South Africa) that players should take a knee. His decision will not unite people but will only create a further divide. I really don’t know why he did this.”
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