Australia's men's team came in for strong criticism from Michael Holding for not taking the knee on their tour of England earlier this year and coach Justin Langer admitted the squad had not given it enough of a discussion. The game in Australia continues to debate how to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement, with teams and players making individual decisions during the ongoing WBBL, and the Australia men's team opting for an Aboriginal Barefoot Circle against India. ESPNcricinfo spoke to former Australia captain Ian Chappell about his views on what should take place.
You come to this issue from talking a lot to Michael Holding about it in particular?
I was very impressed with both Michael and Ebony [Rainford-Brent]. I thought it was really very powerful and stuff that needed to be said. I found it also educational - you figured there has probably been a fair bit of discrimination going on, but when you hear it first-hand and exactly how bad it is, it really hits home. I regularly speak to Mikey about things. Previously it was more to do with what was going on in America, he'd send me little clips or notes about events. So he sends me a lot, but more to do with America than with cricket.
So how would you address the question of taking the knee, both personally but also as a captain leading a discussion?
My personal view is that if I was playing now, I would be doing something, whether it is taking a knee or not, I'd be letting it be known that things need to improve. As a captain I think it's very much an individual thing and I'd call the team together and say 'okay, what do you guys want to do' and if it was all 'we'll take a knee' then fine, we're all taking a knee. But if it was some do want to and some don't, I'd be saying, 'well alright, you do what you feel you have to do and it's an individual decision, but you won't cop any flak for that decision'.
If I was taking that route, before I made it public, I would be dealing with the Board and saying 'look, this is the situation, some players are going to take a knee and others aren't, and I don't want anybody to be punished for taking a knee - if that's going to happen then there'll be a problem'. I think that's really important, because you don't want guys suddenly disappearing out of the team because they're taking a stand.
Sounds like what we have seen in the WBBL, with some players and clubs taking the knee but others choosing not to?
Exactly. That's the first thing you do, sit down and talk about it. But I think in any situation where you're taking a stand, I think it's got to be an individual thing, and I don't think anybody should be forced to do something against their will.
How much do you think it is incumbent upon cricketers to have a decent level of understanding of events going on around the world, whether it is to do with racism or other matters?
Certainly in the past I would say it was easier to make a stand or express an opinion once you'd retired, rather than while you were still playing, and I think the prevailing attitude was that if I'm going to do something, I'll do it after I've retired. That being said, apart from Apartheid, there weren't too many issues of that nature. In early 1971 at Newlands in a first-class game, both sides walked off the field after one ball of the match to protest the South African government's stance, and that included guys like Barry Richards, Clive Rice, Graeme and Peter Pollock, Mike Procter and Denis Lindsay. That was a brave thing to do, but the prevailing attitude was 'let's not get political while we're playing'. I think in these circumstances it is probably easier to make your feelings known as a player, because it's happening worldwide in so many different areas of life.
How would you respond to concerns about how the Australian men's team might be received if some took the knee and some did not?
You discover in life that the people who like you, it basically doesn't matter what you do, they'll still like you. And the people who don't like you, same thing. So for people taking a knee they'll get criticised and you've just got to forget about it. Whatever you do, you'll get some critics, of the people who take a knee and of the people who don't take a knee. But I'm with Mikey on the fact that it's something that needs to be ongoing. It's no good just doing it that Test series in England against the West Indies, and then it's forgotten. It's got to be an ongoing thing, because it's an ongoing problem.
What is your view on how far away Australian cricket is from reflecting the diversity of Australia?
I think Cricket Australia has done more in recent times to try to address that problem. It's only in very recent times that much has been done to try to attract Aboriginals to the game. I don't think Australia took that opportunity until recently, but there have since been genuine attempts to improve that situation. It's a very diverse country and there's no doubt that cricket doesn't reflect that diversity yet. Whether it will one day, it will have to, otherwise the game will be dying. If you're going to totally rely on the Anglo heritage you're going to be in trouble down the track.
I think that's really the first step. The kids going to the cricket have got to look out on the field and see diversity on the field. Thanks to the BBL and the WBBL they are seeing more, because overseas players are coming in. But I think that's an important part of the process…if they go to the cricket and they don't see anyone they can relate to out on the field, they're going to think 'well, this game's not for us'.
Lastly, what's your perspective on how, as national men's captains, Aaron Finch and Tim Paine, should discuss the issue with the team?
The best way to go about it would be to have a players' association level discussion. So you're talking about all players, male and female, discuss it there. You're probably going to come to the same conclusions about it needing to be an individual choice, but I think by doing that and letting it be known that the thing is being discussed by all players, that's taking a bit of the onus off the captains. So I think that would ease the situation a bit if it's made public that 'this is a broad discussion we've had as players, male and female and this is the conclusion we've come to'. I think by doing it that way, one you make it clear to the public that it's not the captains just saying 'this is how it's going to be done', and also it's sending a message to CA that 'we've given this a lot of thought and this is the solution we've come up with ourselves'.