The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced that on day one of the Test on July 8 the players will pay tribute to COVID-19 heroes within the cricket family. The test series named ‘Raise the Bat’ will be taking place behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford due to the pandemic.
This will be the first competitive cricket fixture since the pandemic brought the sporting world to a standstill in March.
The England men’s players will be wearing the names of key workers on their training shirts before the start of the match – shining a light on their bravery and sacrifice as fans watch live from home.
The people named on the shirts have all been nominated by their local cricket clubs and include teachers, doctors, nurses, carers, social workers, and other vital professions. Their stories will be amplified across the ECB’s digital platforms.
The shirts will feature the names of people such as Vikas Kumar, a anesthetics and critical care specialist at Darlington Memorial Hospital, who has been working on the frontline throughout the pandemic while also taking care of a young family at home. In his spare time, Vikas is a keen cricketer playing at Cowgate Cricket Club in Newcastle and the Gilli Boys Amateur Club in Darlington.
‘Raise the Bat’ is s part of the ECB’s nationwide ‘Together Through This Test’ campaign, which was launched last month with a short film narrated by Stephen Fry. This initiative has already featured key workers on over 300 billboards across England and Wales, with more billboards to come from 29 June.
Emily Blakemore, a nurse, will also feature on a shirt. She has been working in a hospital looking after COVID-19 patients. As well as providing vital support to those most in need, she is a dedicated player for Astwood Bank Cricket Club where she also volunteers in the junior section, inspiring the next generation of cricketers.
“We’ve waited a long time for this moment, and we wouldn’t be here without the West Indies – we are so grateful to them for making the tour happen,” England captain Joe Root said.
“As we get back to playing the game we love, we want to take the time to honor the brave key workers who went in to bat for their country under the toughest circumstances. It’s only fitting that we use this series as an opportunity to ‘raise a bat’ in their honor. We’ll wear their names with pride,” he added.
Commenting on the Test Series, ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison said: “As we stage the first international sporting competition in the U.K. since COVID-19 began, we want to pay tribute to the people who have bravely played their part during this crisis. Through the “Raise the Bat” Test Series, we will show our gratitude to key workers.”
The move to dedicate the series to key COVID-19 workers comes after the ECB’s Test sponsorship deal, a two-year agreement with Specsavers, elapsed at the end of the Ashes last summer with no replacement lined up.