England WILL take the knee before T20 World Cup opener against Bangladesh on Wednesday – after ICC banned their ‘unity’ T-shirts – in wake of South Africa star Quinton de Kock’s refusal to do so
- Eoin Morgan’s side took a knee before Saturday’s victory over West Indies
- England wanted to wear their ‘moment of unity’ T-shirts on Wednesday
- But the ICC rejected their request because they contravene kit regulations
- Quinton de Kock sparked controversy by pulling out of T20 match on Tuesday
England were drawn into the thorny debate over pre-match anti-racism gestures after it emerged the ICC had turned down their request to wear their ‘moment of unity’ T-shirts because they contravene kit regulations.
Hours after South Africa’s Quinton de Kock pulled out of the game against West Indies because he refused to take a knee, England were instead strongly considering making the gesture themselves ahead of Wednesday’s match against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi.
Eoin Morgan’s side took a knee before Saturday’s victory over West Indies – a decision they said was based on respect for the West Indians’ position.
England’s request to wear their ‘moment of unity’ T-shirts was turned down by the ICC
But that was the first time an England team had knelt since their home one-day series against Ireland in 2020.
And while they look set to do so again on Wednesday, their preference would have been to wear the T-shirts first displayed by the Test team at the start of the series against New Zealand at Lord’s in June.
The ICC have made it clear that, a month ago, they offered all teams the chance to make a stand against racism. But when England asked if they could wear their T-shirts again, the request was rejected.
The problem is that the shirts bear slogans which condemn seven different types of prejudice and therefore go against kit regulations stating that ‘approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes’.
Eoin Morgan’s side took a knee before Saturday’s victory over West Indies
The England management and players are understood to be relaxed about the ruling, and have opted to take a ‘reciprocal’ approach to pre-match gestures. As such, they will also take a knee when they meet South Africa – for whom the move became official team policy – in Sharjah a week on Saturday.
‘Our position is we stand against any form of discrimination, which we’re very passionate about,’ said vice-captain Jos Buttler. ‘What we’d like to do is a moment of unity, which we did at times during our summer. West Indies like to take a knee, so we wanted to reciprocate that in the first game.’
The question of messages that relate to ‘political, religious or racial’ subjects is an especially tricky one for a tournament held in the UAE, where homosexuality is illegal. It is also a crime in half the 16 nations to have taken part either in the first round or the Super 12 stage.
Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, meanwhile, have banned women from playing the game, forcing many to go into hiding or flee the country altogether.
The debate over pre-match gestures will intensify as South Africa mull over how to react to de Kock, but for now England will focus on making it two wins out of two against a Bangladesh side they have never previously faced in 16 years of T20 internationals.
South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock made himself unavailable at the T20 World Cup
The Bangladeshis have a handful of top-class performers, including all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, left-arm quick Mustafizur Rahman and batsman and former captain Mushfiqur Rahim. And they recently pulled off a 4-1 thrashing of Australia on home pitches tailored to their spinners, followed by a 3-2 victory over New Zealand.
Buttler said all the right things about ‘the big challenge they’ll throw at us,’ but England also know Bangladesh are the weakest side in a tight group. In last week’s first round, they were overturned by Scotland, while on Sunday they allowed a strong position to slip against Sri Lanka.
But Wednesday’s encounter will be England’s only non-floodlit match of the tournament, removing the possibility that evening dew will hamper Bangladesh’s slow bowlers. And for all the ruthlessness Morgan’s bowlers showed in dismissing West Indies for 55, his batsmen were quietly grateful for Buttler’s unbeaten 24 as they made heavy work of the tiny target.
Fast bowler Mark Wood remains unlikely to return from an ankle problem until Saturday’s third match against Australia. And with Tom Curran battling a knee niggle, England could field an unchanged side.
Now they could do with an unchanged result in a format where, as Buttler put it, ‘anyone can beat anyone on their day’.
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