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By Dr Vivek Murthy
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Cricket has an opportunity to level the playing field

3 min read

Many of you will have seen the extensive coverage of the Report ‘Holding Up A Mirror to Cricket’ published on 27 June by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, which I chaired.

We were set up by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2021 to carry out an independent examination of equity in cricket - and the results shocked me, despite my long experience of tackling discrimination in institutions.

We found that racism, sexism, elitism and class-based discrimination are deeply rooted and widespread across the game - evident in the attitudes and behaviours of individuals, and in the way cricket’s institutions benefit a small minority, preventing it being accessible to everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender or social background.

The Report made for difficult and upsetting reading for those of us who love the game. As the Prime Minister put it, “racism stings”. That’s certainly true, and the sting lingers: many of our evidence-givers continue to live with the trauma of discrimination in cricket. For some, it became so bad that they left the game - a personal tragedy for them and a loss to cricket.

I was determined not only to highlight problems but to identify solutions. We made 44 recommendations - all were evidence-based and practical. It wasn’t a wishlist of impossible ideals. Influential commentators, stakeholders and respected cricket journalists have reacted positively to many of them, particularly about the cost of cricket, welcoming our plea for cricket’s talent pathway into the professional game to be free to all. No longer should a child’s excitement at being picked to play for their county be followed by a large bill to their parents for branded kit, coaching and other costs. 

I’ve been heartened by the response from the ECB’s senior leaders, starting with a much-needed apology to victims of discrimination in the game. There seems to be the will to change, but the ECB can’t do that on their own. The whole game, professional and recreational, must come together to tackle the problem. Even then, cricket will need support from others, including the government. The lack of cricket in many state schools has become ever more problematic as private schools increase their dominance in the men’s game at professional and England level. As the women’s game has grown in popularity, it too has significant numbers of privately educated professionals, which may well increase further as girls’ private schools replace rounders with cricket.

Legislators can help by ensuring the necessary funds to increase state school cricket. The government can encourage private schools to open their facilities to state school children, especially in urban areas where state school facilities are particularly lacking. 

The point of a review like ours wasn’t to bash cricket over the head for its failings

Cricket is a public asset, both culturally as our prized national summer sport and because it receives significant public funds. There’s not only a moral responsibility to ensure it’s a vibrant, successful and diverse sport, but it makes commercial sense. Cricket is a driver of economic activity, supporting thousands of jobs directly or indirectly. More people playing the game will contribute directly to a healthier population and globally, our role as a leading cricket nation enhances our standing and soft power.

Parliament needs to hold cricket to account, so they deliver on our recommendations and make the change that’s so desperately needed.

The point of a review like ours wasn’t to bash cricket over the head for its failings, but to help make it better. Our objective has always been for cricket to become the most diverse and inclusive sport in the country. It can happen, and I will lead the cheers when it does.

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