England will likely take the knee against Bangladesh before the T20 World Cup opener on Wednesday – after ICC banned their ‘unity T-shirts – following South Africa’s refusal to do so.

  • Eoin Morgan’s side took a knee before Saturday’s victory over West Indies 
  • England wanted to wear their ‘moment of unity’ T-shirts on Wednesday 
  • The ICC refused to grant their request as they were in violation of the kit regulations
  • Quinton De Kock pulled out of Tuesday’s T20 match, sparking controversy

England were drawn into the thorny debate over pre-match anti-racism gestures after it emerged the ICC had turned down their request to wear their ‘moment of unity’ T-shirts because they contravene kit regulations.

Hours after South Africa’s Quinton de Kock pulled out of the game against West Indies because he refused to take a knee, England were instead strongly considering making the gesture themselves ahead of Wednesday’s match against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi.

Eoin Morgan’s side took a knee before Saturday’s victory over West Indies – a decision they said was based on respect for the West Indians’ position. 

England's request to wear their ¿moment of unity¿ T-shirts was turned down by the ICC

England’s request to wear their ‘moment of unity’ T-shirts was turned down by the ICC

This was the first time that an England team had knelt in a match since their home series against Ireland in 2020.

And while they look set to do so again on Wednesday, their preference would have been to wear the T-shirts first displayed by the Test team at the start of the series against New Zealand at Lord’s in June.

The ICC has made it clear that they offered all teams the opportunity to take a stand against racism a month ago. England was not allowed to wear their T-shirts when they asked.

The problem is that the shirts bear slogans which condemn seven different types of prejudice and therefore go against kit regulations stating that ‘approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes’.

Eoin Morgan¿s side took a knee before Saturday¿s victory over West Indies

Eoin Morgan’s side took a knee before Saturday’s victory over West Indies

The England management and players are understood to be relaxed about the ruling, and have opted to take a ‘reciprocal’ approach to pre-match gestures. As such, they will also take a knee when they meet South Africa – for whom the move became official team policy – in Sharjah a week on Saturday.

‘Our position is we stand against any form of discrimination, which we’re very passionate about,’ said vice-captain Jos Buttler. ‘What we’d like to do is a moment of unity, which we did at times during our summer. West Indies like to take a knee, so we wanted to reciprocate that in the first game.’

The question of messages that relate to ‘political, religious or racial’ subjects is an especially tricky one for a tournament held in the UAE, where homosexuality is illegal. It is also illegal in half of the 16 countries that took part in the Super 12 stage or the first round.

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, meanwhile, have banned women from playing the game, forcing many to go into hiding or flee the country altogether.

South Africa will continue to debate pre-match gestures as they consider how to react to de Karkock. England, however, will be focusing on making it two wins from two against Bangladesh.

South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock made himself unavailable for West Indies match

De Kock was replaced by Heinrich Klaasen - who took the knee - as Proteas wicketkeeper

Quinton De Kock, South Africa’s wicketkeeper was unavailable for the T20 World Cup.

The Bangladeshis boast a few top-class players, including Shakib Al Hasan, left arm quick Mustafizur Rahman, and Mushfiqur Rahim, former captain. They defeated Australia 4-1 on home pitches that were tailored for spinners. Then, they beat New Zealand 3-1.

Buttler said all the right things about ‘the big challenge they’ll throw at us,’ but England also know Bangladesh are the weakest side in a tight group. In last week’s first round, they were overturned by Scotland, while on Sunday they allowed a strong position to slip against Sri Lanka.

But Wednesday’s encounter will be England’s only non-floodlit match of the tournament, removing the possibility that evening dew will hamper Bangladesh’s slow bowlers. And for all the ruthlessness Morgan’s bowlers showed in dismissing West Indies for 55, his batsmen were quietly grateful for Buttler’s unbeaten 24 as they made heavy work of the tiny target.

Fast bowler Mark Wood remains unlikely to return from an ankle problem until Saturday’s third match against Australia. England could field an unchanged team with Tom Curran still battling a knee injury.

Now they could do with an unchanged result in a format where, as Buttler put it, ‘anyone can beat anyone on their day’.