Jofra Archer insists England have not forgotten the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement and Michael Holding had not done his research when criticising the team’s decision to stop taking a knee this summer.
Holding, the prominent Sky pundit, accused England’s players of abandoning the pre-match gesture “as soon as West Indies went home” and questioned whether they had simply “jumped on the bandwagon” when doing so previously.
But Archer, speaking the day after he and Chris Woakes scorched through Australia to set up Wednesday’s ODI series decider, has spoken to Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive and is confident the sport’s response is not over.
Archer said: “I’m pretty sure Michael Holding doesn’t know anything that is going on behind the scenes. I don’t think he has spoken to Tom Harrison. I think it is a bit harsh for Mikey to not do some research before criticising.
“I’ve spoken to Tom and we have stuff running in the background. We’ve not forgotten, no one here has forgotten about Black Lives Matter.”
Harrison admitted earlier in the summer that English cricket had to face up to a “very difficult set of truths” and among the actions referenced by Archer is the introduction of a formal game-wide anti-discrimination code that, somewhat belatedly, gives the governing body the power to police all levels of the sport.
The ECB, which currently has an all-white board of directors at the top, has also pledged to increase diversity across the sport’s leadership positions, and introduce a raft of new education programmes, bursaries, and projects similar to Surrey’s ACE scheme that opens opportunities to the Afro-Caribbean community.
Holding, in response, told ESPNcricinfo: “Taking a knee does not prevent other action from taking place. Those who take a knee are not substituting the gesture for other positive action. Nobody should have a problem with it. It is a worldwide recognition of calling attention to racial prejudice and injustice.”
Archer has had to deal with racist abuse during his 18-month international career – both on social media and in person, after reporting one spectatator in New Zealand last year – and questioned whether the deterrents go far enough.
He said: “People can be prosecuted a bit easier but I think it might have to go a bit further because some people still aren’t worried about what can happen to them. I had one the other day, the guy blamed it on being drunk.
“At the end of the day I think I’m strong enough to deal with it but what happens when they start targeting someone who isn’t as mentally strong and it starts affecting them? We’ve got to try and stamp it out as much as possible now.”
These are weighty subjects for a cricketer to deal with so early in their international career but Archer, 25, appears unburdened at present, certainly if his role in Sunday’s dramatic 24-run victory over Australia is anything to go by.
The right-armer vaporised David Warner and Marcus Stoinis with the new ball, struck Aaron Finch twice with bouncers and was one half the incendiary mid-innings burst with Woakes that knocked over four of the tourists in the space of 21 balls to set up another chapter in England’s recent catalogue of fightbacks.
Archer now has 29 wickets from his first 16 ODI caps – only Jimmy Anderson, with 30, boasted more for England at this stage of his career – and he continues to deliver for his captain, Eoin Morgan. Having a clearly defined role, one dictated by the format’s restrictions, helps no end here too.
Joe Root seems chiefly interested in deploying him in a third-seamer-cum-enforcer role but Archer, who remains keen to utilise his array of skills too, has once again reminded his Test captain – and the wider commentariat – that 90mph is not easy to sustain over the course of five days.
Archer said: “The time I spend bowling with the white ball is a lot less than in Test cricket. You can’t run [hard] in the whole day. It is actually impossible to run in the whole day bowling at 90mph. If you can show me someone who does it then fair play. But I’ve not seen any bowler who bowls 90mph do it for a whole day.”
No player has spent more time in the bio-secure environment this summer than Archer’s 87 days and, having been hit with a fine and lost a Test cap for an unsanctioned trip home during the West Indies series, he admits it has been a “mentally challenging” experience. “I’m not sure how many bubbles I have left in me this year,” he added.
There is at least still to negotiate, however, with Archer among a contingent of English and Australian players who fly out on a chartered plane to the United Arab Emirates after Wednesday’s series decider to play in the India Premier League, a tournament that runs up to 10 November.