Dal encouraging positive conversations regarding racism

Sunday 4th April 2021
& News
Written by Tom Skinner
Photography by: David Griffin

Derbyshire all-rounder, Anuj Dal, has opened up about experiences of racism in cricket and how he aims to consign the issues to the past through education and honest discussion.

The 24-year-old, who joined Derbyshire in 2018, became Vice Chair of the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) earlier this year and has since challenged his own understanding and strived to tackle the issue.

Openly positive about the prospects for the future of the game and players at all levels, Dal talks with knowledge and passion, as well as a sense of relief knowing he’s spoken of issues he’s faced and is in a position to support others to challenge their own awareness.

It’s a topic which Dal admits is delicate for many, yet he’s confident and positive, with visible enthusiasm, as he discusses the potential to eradicate the issue, following a recent interview with The Cricketer.

“Over the past 12 months we’ve seen how much of an issue it’s been and how much has come to light,” said Dal.

“It started with the George Floyd incident last year and we’ve seen how powerful that movement was.

“In combination with the PCA setting up their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group, there are so many great people speaking powerfully about this issue and I wanted to open up about what players may be feeling on the inside.

“I’m almost certain it’s never meant maliciously, but the whole point of what I’m trying to do is increase awareness and encourage more people to actively engage with it and feel comfortable about talking about these sorts of issues.

“When you’re in a cricketing environment, it can get masked a little bit and that banter frame of mind was something quite prevalent in dressing rooms that I’ve been in.

“It’s a very delicate subject and a few years ago, I didn’t want to bring it up. But it’s now a great time to challenge and further that educational process, in combination with players feeling in a comfortable environment, to a point where we can say ‘that’s not an acceptable thing to say.’”

Dal, motivated by a productive close-season which saw him elected to the PCA Board by his peers and more recently an on-field top-score of 72 not out in a warm-up fixture last week, knows this will be a busy summer.

“The PCA have so much to offer players and I’m now starting to fully understand that. Alongside playing for Derbyshire, the main reason I took the PCA role on was to give Jimmy [James Harris] and the PCA a different perspective.

“The aim of what I’m doing is for people to see it and relate to it and say ‘I’m happy to speak up and have an awkward situation about it.’ Hopefully with the Vice-Chair role I can achieve that,” he said.

“I never want to point fingers because in my past career things have been handled well and instead, I want to encourage more players to start having conversations with their clubs, with fellow players, and improve the confidence that everyone has that this won’t be an issue for long.”

Part of his remit within the PCA is to act as a voice for players across the professional game and to encourage them to raise their concerns, something which he believes is already improving due to workshops.

These player-focused events, delivered by EW Group, a consultancy specialising in delivering unconscious bias training, began in March and Dal is pleased to see the positive impact is showing already.

“I know from our dressing room particularly we had some really engaging conversations from our workshop. It fills me with a lot of confidence knowing that something like this is being handled so well.

“Before the workshops began, we held pilot events and we had a broad range of cricketers from various backgrounds at all clubs and it’s great to see players having these conversations which may have been awkward to have.

“Being open and listening to what others have gone through was a brilliant step and if clubs continue to engage with that and recognise that, then we will keep moving forward,” emphasised Dal.

“We’ve got it in abundance here at Derbyshire and it’s refreshing to see young players coming through in an environment knowing those experiences may never happen.

“The way things are moving now; I have no doubt that in a couple of years this is hopefully an issue we won’t be speaking about.”

Derbyshire, whose Supervisory Board is comprised of more than one third Non-Executive Directors from a BAME background, are continuing to strive to create an environment in which all staff feel comfortable in raising issues they face, an initiative which Dal wants to see progress.

“A big thing for me was making sure that it stemmed from the leadership,” acknowledged Dal. “We’ve done it really well at Derbyshire. Not only are the players receiving the education, but also the coaches, the staff, the pathway setup. And there are similar steps being taken across the counties.

“It’s great to see that right from a young age, a player has got that education and understands it from their coaches. That’s a massive step forward and people are understanding different interpretations.

“If people feel the need to challenge, then they will do that. But for me I want to move past that and develop the education process as that’s the best way to move forward.

“If people challenge themselves and realise the issues themselves, and perhaps think they’ve said something in the past which they wouldn’t say now, then that’s the biggest motivator for me and how we change things positively moving forward.

“I hopefully see these conversations a chance to raise awareness and I want this to be seen as a positive thing moving forward with people comfortable to open up.”

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