Why Do Cricketers Wear Black Armbands?

The Reason Why Cricketers Wear Black Armband

Depending on the match being played, a cricket player’s uniform can be the standard cricket whites or a coloured jersey. What is catching some spectators by surprise however is the presence of black armbands that teams can be seen occasionally sporting.

Those who are new to the sport, mistake this accessory as a means to easily spot your teammates especially during games when the uniforms donned are all white. But this does not explain why single-day players in coloured suits are also seen wearing them on occasion. So what exactly is the story behind the black armband that cricketers are seen wearing?

Where Black Armbands First Originated

Let’s begin by discussing the origins of this practice. Historically, the custom of wearing black armbands was initially adopted as a sign of mourning. The actual origins of the band cannot be pinpointed, however, the earliest sighting can be seen in a portrait of the Queen of Bohemia dating back to 1614. It was said that by 1795 – 1830 during the Regency Era, men or male children were expected to don black suits along with a black crepe band to be worn on the arm.

This type of mourning attire eventually reached its peak during the reign of England’s Queen Victoria. Upon the passing of her husband in 1861, the Queen’s royal servants were asked to wear the black bands for at least 8 years in order to honour him.

Studies further show that the cost of mourning wear was so expensive for many households in the UK. More affluent families were believed to hand their servants black crepe cloth armbands to wear during a period of mourning.  Suffice to say, it was the servants that generally wore the black bands when there was a death in the household.

In another instance, it was common to see black armbands was on the arm of military personnel, as well as other professions where donning a uniform was required. Other than the aforementioned groups of individuals it was considered poor etiquette for a person not to wear the standard mourning wear.

Primary Reasons Black Armbands are Being Worn in Cricket Matches

Eventually the practice of wearing black armbands to show mourning went beyond the Victorian period of England. Soon the armbands were also being worn in the United States where it grew in popularity as a mourning outfit. Fast forward to the twenty-first century, the use of black armbands has become fairly common. There are currently two main reasons why it is being worn

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#1 Worn in honor

To date, donning a black band on the arm remains to be a symbol for mourning. Many sports athletes have been seen sporting them to honor a deceased teammate, friend, or even an opponent.

One such display was on March 28, 1907, when the Boston Americans’ manager Chick Stahl committed suicide. Both the team’s players and their opponents could be seen with black bands on their left arm during their match on March 30 of the same year.

As of recently, the Indian cricket team wore black bands in honor of a legend’s passing. During a match against New Zealand, members of the team including the coach gave their respects to the death of cricket player Milkha Singh. The “Flying Sikh” as he was known succumbed to a long battle with COVID.

Not only do sportsmen commemorate the lives of their friends, players have also worn black armbands to honor individuals who passed away from attacks, bombings, and environmental disasters. Donning an armband as a symbol for mourning gets the thought across without having to distract from the game or the gameplay.

#2 Armbands worn as a form of protest

Towards the second half of the twentieth century, armbands in black were being used to symbolize protest.

In the sports arena, a black armband protest was made by cricketers Andy Flower and Henry Olonga of Zimbabwe. The event took place during the 2003 Cricket World Cup. At the time, the pair used the bands to mourn what they called the death of Zimbabwean democracy.

The initial protest began during the team’s match in Harare. From then on the pair wore black bands to all of their matches to further drive the point of their protest.

Their actions were condemned by senior cricket stars and political figures from their native land. However, the display earned the praises of the international media. Although the International Cricket Council found the pair’s actions to be political in nature, no charges were brought forward for the offense.  As a result of their actions, the duo was forced out of Zimbabwe. Both later settled in the UK, with Olongo now retired, and Flower retiring from international cricket but had subsequently signed with Essex and also with South Australia.

In Conclusion

Cricket is a fairly aggressive game that requires agility, strength, and stamina. Nonetheless, the sport is not free of casualties. Over the years, players have lost their lives while participating in matches. Some are a direct result of freak accidents that occur during gameplay, while others have underlying health issues that are exacerbated by the energetic motions of the sport.

Whether a player passes during a match or outside one, it is only normal for his teammates to commemorate and remember his life. There are many ways fans, loved ones, and teams celebrate a departed cricket player’s memory. Aside from the passing of a cricket player, many teams choose to wear an armband simply to commemorate the life of a person they wish to honour and dedicate the match too. Wearing a black armband is currently the most popular method of the memorial.

Though there are instances that it is being worn as a means to protest an injustice, more often than not the main reason cricket players wear black armbands is to honour those they have lost. More importantly, bands allow sportsmen to mourn the passing of someone without having to deviate from regulation uniform. Simply put, black bands are an efficient and inexpensive way to honour the departed.


Main Image Source: Pixabay

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Dave P
Dave P
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