James Anderson says English cricket must do more to “make the game for everybody”, joining other sportsmen who have spoken out about racism across the globe.
Worldwide demonstrations sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in the United States are set to continue this weekend.
There have been suggestions that next month’s Test series between England and the West Indies could see both sides taking a knee as a sign of support for Black Lives Matter.
“It’s been a very thought-provoking few weeks for everyone,” England bowler Anderson told reporters during a conference call on Thursday. “It’s made me do a lot of thinking.”
The 37-year-old pointed to the abuse that teammate Jofra Archer received from a spectator while on England duty last November.
He said: “I wasn’t there in New Zealand when Jofra was racially abused. It made me think and it made me think ‘have I turned a blind eye to things?’ I’d try to support my team-mates if they did suffer any sort of abuse but have I been active in supporting them on things like that?”
Anderson said cricket needed to do more, referring to research by ESPNCricinfo that there is currently just one state-educated black player in English county cricket.
“That’s just not OK,” he said. “So I think again as a game we need to actively make this game for everyone. It can’t keep going the way it is.”
Anderson missed most of last year’s Ashes with a calf injury and was injured during the second Test of England’s winter tour of South Africa.
But England’s most successful Test bowler is looking forward to putting a “dodgy 12 months” behind him against the West Indies.
The series starts at Southampton on July 8, with the teams moving to Anderson’s Lancashire home ground of Old Trafford for the next two Tests.
The bowler said taking five wickets in South Africa’s first innings of the second Test in Cape Town in January had shown him he was still able to perform at the top level.
The veteran paceman, now bowling again in the nets, described his months of enforced inactivity due to Covid-19 as “very strange”.
“There have been nice parts of it, he said. “I’ve been able to spend more time with my kids. I’ve found out that I’m not a very good teacher.”
But Anderson, whose 584 Test wickets are the most taken by any fast bowler, insisted the lay-off had not made him contemplate hanging up his boots, despite speculation the season could be wiped out completely.
“It didn’t make me think about retirement or anything like that,” he said. “It just made me think ‘we’ve got to keep training, you just never know’, and stay fit for when that call does come. Strange as it was, all we could do was hope that we would get some cricket.”