“As a cricket community we have to make the game available to everyone. We’ve got to encourage people from all cultures and backgrounds to be able to play this game.”
Last Updated: 11/06/20 5:15pm
James Anderson says England will discuss how best to promote racial equality ahead of the Test series against West Indies.
Anderson, 37, backs taking the knee and leaving the pitch should any of his team-mates encounter racism if the team feels that is the best way to show its support.
On Wednesday West Indies skipper Jason Holder explained that his players have yet to decide how to display a ‘show of solidarity’ in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the global protests in response to the killing of George Floyd.
Anderson agrees that the matter needs to be talked through thoroughly before the first Test at the Ageas Bowl begins on July 8 to make the strongest possible stand against racism.
“The last couple of weeks has really made people think,” reflected Anderson. “From our point of view as an England team, I think we do need to sit down and talk about it.
“We need to educate ourselves about what’s going on and make a decision that everyone is comfortable with. But I’m sure we’ll be having a similar chat to what the West Indies will have.”
Asked by Sky Sports News‘ James Cole if he would take a knee in support of his team-mates if they wanted to, Anderson said: “Absolutely; I think it’s something that we’d have to do as a team. We’d have to support each other in that.
“That’s the whole point about sitting down and having a chat about it. We should do it as a team. We should be there for each other, support each other, so we’ll see what comes out of those chats.”
Earlier this year a man was banned from attending international and domestic fixtures in New Zealand for two years after subjecting Jofra Archer to racial abuse in November’s first Test at Mount Maunganui.
Anderson, who missed that tour as he continued to recover from a calf injury, says he is fortunate not to have experienced racism on the field of play during his career to date and admits that has given him case to reflect.
“This is something that I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of weeks,” he said. “But at the same time it makes you think ‘have I actually turned a blind eye to it or just not been as aware as I should have been about something?’
“I wasn’t in New Zealand when Jofra was racially abused but again it makes you think as a team ‘can we do more to support players in that situation?’
“We need to educate ourselves about this. I read somewhere the other day that there is one black player in county cricket who has come through the state system and that’s just not good enough.
“As a cricket community we have to make the game available for everyone. We’ve got to encourage people from all cultures and backgrounds to be able to play this game.
“The team at the minute is extremely multicultural but I think there’s definitely more we can do to be able to encourage more people to play.”
Anderson is just 16 wickets short of becoming the first English bowler to claim 600 Test scalps, a milestone he appears likely to reach this summer even if the selectors do opt to rotate their attack given the intense fixture schedule caused by coronavirus.
For now, though, the veteran is focussed on preparing as well as he can for the summer by bowling at Lancashire team-mate Keaton Jennings in the nets at Chester – and trying to adapt to the new ICC regulation that bans the use of saliva to shine the ball.
“It’s going to be unusual but we’ve been using the last few weeks trying to get used to not [using saliva],” he said. “For me it’s a natural habit for me to put saliva on the ball. So it has been interesting trying to stop myself doing that.
“Fortunately, in Manchester, we get quite a lot of rain so I’ve been able to shine the ball on the grass and get some moisture on it that way.
“As far as I’m aware we can use sweat so that’s something at least and I think it will be enough to at least polish the ball enough for it to do something through the air.”
Anderson has also taken to wearing a headband in training, explaining: “It’s definitely something that I’ll be looking to take into the game.
“It’s generally trying to stop any touching of the face, whether it’s moving your hair out of your face or – when you get sweat dripping down – it encourages you not to touch your face.
“It has all felt unnatural, to be honest, because the whole process of training is unusual right now; it’s completely different to what we’re used to.”
Further change could come in the shape of the captaincy, with skipper Joe Root confirming he will hand the reins to Ben Stokes should the birth of his second child coincide with the first Test.
Anderson had a stint as vice-captain on the 2017/18 Ashes tour, stepping in for Stokes after the all-rounder was suspended for his part in an incident outside a Bristol nightclub.
Stokes asked to be reinstated to the role after he was cleared of affray and Anderson said he has thrived on the challenge since – not least in the 2019 Ashes, where his batting heroics at Headingley propelled England to one of the most famous wins in Ashes history.
“Ben has been the vice-captain for a while now and he’s grown and grown with that responsibility,” said Anderson.
“In the dressing room he’s really got a presence. He’s got the respect of the team and I’d fully expect him to do a great job.
“If Ben steps up he’s got some great people around him to be able to help him out in that situation and make it a lot easier than it possibly could be.”
Watch the first Test between England and West Indies live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10am on Wednesday, July 8.