Ebony Rainford-Brent. © Getty Images

Ebony Rainford-Brent, former England batter and now director of women’s cricket at Surrey, said she was overwhelmed by the positive response received after she and Michael Holding spoke passionately about racism in the Sky Sports feature about Black Lives Matter. The video was aired ahead of the first day of the men’s Test match between England and West Indies at the Oval.

Worried about having to deal with abuse, Rainford-Brent said she took Twitter off her phone and was extremely anxious the night before the video went out. However, a couple of days on, she feels there is change afoot.

“I didn’t sleep the night before the video went out,” Rainford-Brent told The Guardian on Friday (July 10). “I was expecting abuse or people saying ‘not this again’. It was emotionally draining and then there was anxiety before it went out, so I got rid of Twitter.”

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“Bryan Henderson [head of Sky Cricket] and Nasser Hussain told me afterwards I should check my Twitter again and when I did the messages were ridiculous. And I’ve spent hours going through the texts, emails and answering calls. I’ve had messages from around the world, from every nation, the England girls, administrators, ex-players like [the former Australia captain] Michael Clarke. That tells you that cricket is switched on to the message.”

“I thought we were talking in our own cricket bubble but I’ve had people from all walks of life saying how what we said has crossed over or opened their eyes. Other people said we had given them a voice. That’s been really powerful.”

In the video, Rainford-Brent spoke emotionally about the derogatory comments she faced whilst growing up in London, while Holding talked about the “dehumanisation of the black race.” The delayed start to the Test allowed Holding to add to add to the conversation, throwing further light on his experiences over the years.

Before the action finally got underway, both teams – players and staff – and match officials took the knee – a moment that Rainford-Brent said gave her goosebumps.

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“That was a goosebumps moment,” she said. “To see it on one of the most important days of our sport and everyone taking a knee was powerful. I watched the grand prix and it was a case of half up, half down. That didn’t look like full solidarity. But here we saw all players, umpires and coaching staff doing it.”

She is scheduled to meet Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, some time next week to discuss the best ways to increase representation of the black community at all levels – players, coaching staff and administration. As a quick fix, Harrison said the board will offer two bursaries for members of the black community per ECB coaching course.

This comes shortly after Surrey began their ACE program, hunting for talent among the Afro-Caribbean community – an initiative that received an overwhelming response.

While acknowledging that change will take time, Rainford-Brent added that there are ways to make a “quick impact”, one of which was to involve “key advisors” to develop a quick program overnight.

“[The Surrey chief executive] Richard Gould told me we had to work on long-term projects in this area but he also wanted some fast results. From giving me a budget to announcing the Ace programme took two and a half weeks.”

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Rainford-Brent, who has often shared her views on the subject, thanked Holding for his support through the course of the week, adding that is was his strength that helped her share her full story.

“On my own I don’t think I could have done it but the way Mikey spoke, it created a united front. One of his videos was up to five million views yesterday.”

“I’ve had so many emails via my website. I saw people saying ‘I’m in my 70s and have never considered it but I’ve found myself questioning things and will commit to change’. It’s put a marker down and I’m more positive than I have ever been.”