Ben Stokes says England will make Black Lives Matter 'gesture' in first West Indies Test
7 July 2020, 14:11 | Updated: 8 July 2020, 06:03
Ben Stokes will lead England in a "gesture" of support for the Black Lives Matter movement when international cricket returns on Wednesday, but did not confirm that his players would take a knee.
Both England and the West Indies will carry the Black Lives Matter symbol on their collars during the first #raisethebat Test at the Ageas Bowl - live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am, Wednesday - and, speaking to the press ahead of cricket's long-awaited return, Stokes confirmed the match would begin with an act of solidarity to the cause.
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The stand-in skipper, who replaces Joe Root while he attends the birth of his second child, did not mention specifically what England's gesture would be, but made it clear the occasion would not go unmarked by the home side.
"There is going to be a gesture shown from us as a team in support of Black Lives Matter towards the equality in society throughout cricket and throughout sport," Stokes said.
"We aren't in any way, shape or form showing support towards any political matters on the movement. We are all about the equality through society and sport.
"Not only has this been a period for us getting ready for a Test match, it has also been great for us to have some educational chats as a team around this which has been really beneficial for a lot of our members. Mark Saxby, our masseur, has been at the forefront of that and he's done an absolutely brilliant job."
After Stokes' heroics helped England win the World Cup last year, one-day skipper Eoin Morgan made a point of highlighting the diversity of the team he presided over.
It was a point Stokes referred back to as he prepared for his match as England captain.
"I feel as a team that we have an opportunity to send a real powerful message," Stokes added. "I am really excited as an individual, and the team is really excited that we are able to be a part of that.
"Without the diversity that we have shown as a team over however many years, and the equality that needs to be given, we might not be World Cup champions, we might not be one of the best Test teams in the world.
"We have a great chance to send a real powerful message and to educate people more on the matter."
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Stokes also referenced England's World Cup win of last summer in regards to how the Test team is shaping up, seeing parallels in the strength in depth in each squad.
"We had that [intra-squad] three-day game, which was absolutely fantastic - to see where everybody was at, and the competitive side of that was brilliant," said Stokes.
"It's not very often where we're in a situation where we've got six or seven bowlers we could choose from.
"It's a real head-scratcher, as someone who has to pick the side but, the bigger picture, it's a great place to be in as a team.
"I feel like we're in a position now, with the Test team, like we were with the one-day team in 2015, where we were building for the  World Cup; I feel like we're building towards the Ashes in Australia [in 18 months] and also India [this winter]."
"I feel we have an identity now as a Test team. For us, going forward, it's about building on that identity; we have a goal of becoming the best Team in the world and so we're building towards that."
Before the Ashes series of 2021/22 and any tour of India later this year, though, England first have three Tests against the West Indies and a further three against Pakistan, inside seven weeks this summer, and Stokes is eager to get going.
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"Tomorrow couldn't come at a better time; everybody is ready and raring to go," he added.
"It's massive. I know everybody has been craving this from a player's point of view, but also from a fan's point of view. This is a massive occasion tomorrow, for a lot of people around England.
"We know we have that responsibility on our shoulders, to go out and do justice for all those people.
"It creeps back into that question about the crowd; we can't use that as an excuse to not feel up for this game - because we know we've got hundreds and thousands of people following us and wanting us to do well, at home watching us on TV."
Watch day one of the first #raisethebat Test between England and the West Indies from 10.30am, Wednesday on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event.