The number of cricket teams taking a knee before matches may have dwindled during the recent summer but for Chris Jordan, England’s death‑bowling specialist in Twenty20 cricket, the momentum behind its message of racial equality continues.
Jordan is busy playing for Kings XI Pujab in the Indian Premier League but on Wednesday took time out after training to speak to children at Camelot primary school in Peckham via Zoom as part of Chance To Shine’s Black History Month celebrations.
In a Q&A session alongside the former England seamer Alex Tudor, the pair were quizzed on topics that ranged from favourite foods and countries to visit, through to how Jordan pulls off those trademark wonder catches and his journey from a cricket-crazed kid in Barbados to England international.
As well as the insight that Jordan quickly visualises “six or seven” ways a ball can come to him in the field upon moving to any given position, the biggest surprise across the 40 minutes was that his childhood friendship with the pop star Rihanna didn’t crop up.
Jordan admitted afterwards he had prepared for it, but was still blown away by the classroom’s buzz. “Things like this are what you live for,” he says. “It inspires me to get up tomorrow and put the work in because one of them might be watching me. If I can carry myself in a way that inspires them, even just one, that’s a big win.”
Chance to Shine is telling the stories of past and present black England cricketers through teaching materials for schools and this guest appearance by Jordan – followed by a quick chat with the Guardian – comes at a time when the sport is debating whether the Black Lives Matter message delivered this year remains prominent enough.
On Tuesday Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, expressed disappointment that taking a knee largely stopped after his side’s Test tour in July. For Jordan, whose appearances during the season followed the decision by England to end the gesture, this does not mean its impact is over.
Jordan says: “I definitely think the message was heard. The timing of it, with West Indies coming over, and the speeches from Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent made it very fresh and very real. No matter who you were, it touched you.
I don’t feel the momentum has been lost. I say that because of the conversations that were going on within our team and with opposition [later in the summer].
“It might not be highlighted on social media or TV but these were real conversations behind the scenes. I can see how from the outside someone might think otherwise but away from the spotlight is where the biggest difference will be made.
“Whilst it’s important we continue the message, in that moment the chats with my teammates were much more educational. I personally feel within us, as human beings, that is where change will come. And that will be more effective.”
It is not a straightforward topic for one of England’s two current black cricketers to tackle – not least while at the IPL, which Holder also said should be doing more – and Jordan’s response about off-field work echoes that of Jofra Archer in the summer.
England will go back into the bubble next month for a Twenty20 and one-day international series in South Africa. England’s first tour since the Covid-19 pandemic began will be played amid biosecure plans agreed with the South Africa government. The squad will fly out on 16 November with the three T20 matches and three ODIs staged in Cape Town and Paarl. England will pay for their own flight and are expected to take up to 24 players.
Tour schedule: 27 November – first T20, Newlands, Cape Town; 29 November – second T20, Boland Park, Paarl; 1 December – third T20, Newlands, Cape Town; 4 December – first ODI, Newlands, Cape Town; 6 December – second ODI, Boland Park, Paarl; 9 December – third ODI, Newlands, Cape Town.
England’s two captains, Eoin Morgan and Joe Root, are said to be working on a project related to black and minority ethnic cricketers but Jordan feels it is not his place to publicly divulge the details just yet.
The 32‑year‑old’s focus is on helping to push Kings XI up from fifth in the IPL table and on Sunday he was involved in the harum‑scarum victory against Mumbai Indians in Dubai that required a historic second super over to settle matters. “It was crazy. My only regret was there was no crowd to enjoy it,” he says.
It was the third time Jordan has bowled a super over in his career, having done so twice previously for England. And after keeping Mumbai to 11 runs, before his batsmen knocked off the target, his record here remains 100%. Little wonder, then, that he remains one of Morgan’s go-to men at the death in international cricket.
“I was told recently that since 2016 only Dwayne Bravo has bowled more death overs in Twenty20 cricket than me. The more you do it, the more you understand it. I tell myself it’s all about the execution, not the end result, and if I execute over a period or time I know I’ll succeed more often than not.”
A veteran of 86 white‑ball caps, and two wickets away from Stuart Broad’s England record of 65 in T20 internationals, Jordan has been empowered by Morgan’s leadership and points to the captain’s recent statement about players being able to miss tours on grounds of mental health, without fear of recrimination, as the latest example of this.
“It sums him up. He’s one of a kind. He knows the importance of family and to provide us with that opportunity speaks volumes. Mental health is so important – when you cross the line in an England shirt you want to give 200% – and he just gets it.”
Though bubble life can be taxing, Jordan hopes to bounce on to the white-ball tour of South Africa next month next month and would happily travel to Pakistan in January if that mooted series comes to fruition. “I’ve played in four Pakistan Super Leagues and if there’s an opportunity to be part of history I’ll be putting my hand up.”
This ever-willing approach has been a hallmark of Jordan’s career, something a number of parents in south London were hearing plenty about over dinner if the earlier excitement in the classroom was anything to go by.
Chance to Shine’s charity partner NatWest has championed diversity and inclusion in cricket and is committed to raising aspirations for children across the country. Find out more about cricket’s Black History Month at chancetoshine.org/bhm