Cricket’s shady side comes to light | Sunday Observer

Cricket’s shady side comes to light

2 July, 2023

England captain Ben Stokes says he is “deeply sorry” to hear of experiences of discrimination in a report into cricket in England and Wales.

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) says racism, sexism, classism and elitism are “widespread” in English and Welsh cricket.

Giving a statement before Wednesday’s start of the second men’s Ashes Test at Lord’s, Stokes said cricket “must go further and be more inclusive and diverse”.

“It is clear there is so much more the game has to do and as players we really want to be a part of that to ensure this is truly a sport for everyone,” Stokes said.

The damning report, released earlier on Tuesday, looked into recreational and professional cricket, and the evidence gathered came from more than 4,000 respondents.

Among other things, it said “structural and institutional racism” continues to exist within the game, women are treated as “subordinate” to men at all levels of the sport and there is a prevalence of “elitism and class-based discrimination” in cricket.

“As a sport, we need to learn from past mistakes and do all we can to make people feel safe and be themselves at every level,” Stokes said.

“The game should be enjoyed without fear of discrimination.”

Stokes, England women’s captain Heather Knight and former men’s skipper Joe Root were among those to give evidence to the commission.

The report’s chair Cindy Butts said it heard of problems “throughout cricket, including the England dressing room”.

“To the people involved within the game who have been made to feel unwelcome, I am deeply sorry to hear of your experiences,” Stokes said in his statement.

“Cricket needs to celebrate diversity on all fronts, as without diversity it would not be the game it is today.

“We must go further and be more inclusive and diverse because the game I love and millions worldwide love should be enjoyed without fear of discrimination or judgement whether due to upbringing, race or gender.”

The report says the influence of private schools in developing cricketers and the lack of cricket in state schools is partly to blame for “elitism and class-based discrimination”.

Some 58% of men to play for England in 2021 were privately educated, significantly higher than the 7% of the general population who went to private school.

“Everyone has a different story to tell,” Stokes said.

“I am Ben Stokes, born in New Zealand, a state educated pupil who dropped out of school at 16 with one GCSE in PE.

“I needed help with the spelling and grammar in this speech and am currently sitting here as the England men’s Test captain.”

The report was particularly critical when highlighting sexism, saying there was a “widespread culture of sexism and misogyny” in the game.

It was alarmed there has never been a women’s Test at Lord’s - the so-called home of cricket.

ECB chair Richard Thompson said the lack of a women’s Test at the venue was “unacceptable”, adding that one would be played there in 2026.

Tests are seldom played in the women’s game and there are currently none in the schedule before 2027.

Lord’s hosted a women’s one-day international against India last year, but that was the first time England had played at the venue since the 2017 World Cup final.

This year’s Ashes contest at Trent Bridge, which finished on Monday, was the first at one of the major venues which hosts men’s Tests.

“We’re going to ensure there will be a women’s Test match played [at Lord’s] in 2026,” Thompson said. “That should have happened sooner.

“That has been addressed and will happen in 2026 when we also host the Women’s World Cup and T20 World Cup.

“We need to pull these pathways together and from a women’s perspective they need to feel they’re both included and welcome to play anywhere.” (BBC sport)