Former England U-19 captain Azeem Rafiq’s revelations of being racially abused during his two stints at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) have resulted in two former England players speaking up about the ‘incidents’. It also prompted another former cricketer of Asian heritage, who has remained unnamed, to mention how he was a victim of ‘sly and blatant’ racism during his time with the team.
In an interview with Wisden Cricket Monthly, Rafiq said a former Yorkshire captain was “openly racist. It was around the time of my debut. There was me, Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. We’re walking onto the field and one player said: ‘There’s too many of you lot. We need to have a word about that.’”
Michael Vaughan, the former England captain who spent 16 years – his entire career – playing First-Class cricket for Yorkshire, claimed he was the one referenced in the allegation. In a column for The Telegraph, he categorically denied the charge.
“I was hit with the news that Rafiq was alleging that in 2009, when I was still a player and before a Yorkshire match against Nottinghamshire, I had said to Rafiq and two other Asian players as we walked onto the field together that there are ‘too many of you lot, we need to do something about it.’
“I completely and categorically deny that I ever said those words. I have nothing to hide. The ‘you lot’ comment never happened. Anyone trying to recollect words said 10 years ago will be fallible but I am adamant those words were not used. If Rafiq believes something was said at the time to upset him, then that is what he believes. It is difficult to comment on that except to say it hurts me hugely to think I potentially affected someone. I take it as the most serious allegation ever put in front of me and I will fight to the end to prove I am not that person.”
— Egan Richardson (@EganRichardson) November 5, 2021
On Friday however, former Pakistan pacer Naved confirmed to Cricinfo that he too had heard Vaughan make the racial comments and is prepared to provide evidence to an inquiry.
Following Naved’s claim, the BBC, where Vaughan has worked as an analyst since 2009, will not have the former England captain present for the show “The Tuffers and Vaughan Cricket Show” on Monday.
Rafiq had also alleged that he had been called ‘Paki,’ a derogatory term used to describe a person of Pakistani heritage, by a teammate. The allegation, upon investigation by an internal panel set up by the YCCC, disregarded any racist connotations claiming that the term was used merely as “banter between friends.”
In a statement published on the YCCC website, current Yorkshire player Gary Ballance revealed that he had called Rafiq ‘P***’ during their playing days together, asserting that it was indeed “between friends,” but also apologised for using it.
“To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years. Because we were such good friends and spent a lot of time together drinking and on nights out, we both said things privately to each other which were not acceptable. It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so. I do not wish to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements that he made about me and others but I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.
“I regret that these exchanges took place, but at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress. If I had believed that then I would have stopped immediately. He was my best mate in cricket and I cared deeply for him. To my knowledge, it has never been alleged that I reduced Rafa to tears.”
As reported by the Daily Mail, an unnamed former Yorkshire player from the early 2000s had listed three incidents of racial misconduct during his time with the club.
“I had a player p*** on my head from the hotel bedroom above, as I was on the phone leaning out of my room window. The coach at the time said ‘ignore it’ and that he would deal with it. They never did.”
In another incident, he recalled overhearing ‘senior players’ that are still involved with the club talking about “how they sh***** a bird” who was on her period while in their hotel room, and how they used a Muslim player’s prayer mat to clean up.”
Allegations that a Muslim prayer mat was used by Yorkshire cricket players to clean up the mess from having sex with a woman on her period and players p**sed on an Asian players head are vile. We need answers & action now. I fear a DCMS review won’t cut it. This is much bigger.
— Adil Ray OBE (@adilray) November 5, 2021
There was also the accusation of being put in danger during training and left out of teams.
He recalled training sessions where teammates would deliberately throw the ball excessively hard at him from close range during catching drills. “It used to bruise my hands through the gloves. I remember having to miss out on a final once due to this injury.”
“I wasn’t given a single opportunity to play second XI cricket. How were they expecting my game to improve? Other white players were given chances in the second XI.
“I and others were used as a statistic. When people said Yorkshire were racist, their reply was: ‘How can we be – we have X amount of Asians on our books.’”
A spokesperson from YCCC told Daily Mail, “This behaviour would be completely unacceptable to the club. It goes without saying we will investigate thoroughly.”
Taking to Twitter, Rafiq penned a note claiming: “I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals. This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game. The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change.”
Rafiq and senior Yorkshire officials will appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee – a parliamentary panel – on November 16 to present their evidence in the matter.