• Saturday, April 13, 2024

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Me and my family have been driven out of the country: Azeem Rafiq

The former Yorkshire spinner says ‘cricket still in denial’ over racism in the sport

Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq (R) with Yorkshire chair, Lord Patel (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

Former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq said cricket is still “in denial” over racism which drove him out of the UK.

Rafiq, 31, appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday more than a year after he gave evidence about the racism he faced when he was playing for Yorkshire.

Having relocated to Pakistan last month, he used his latest appearance before the committee to highlight the abuse he and his family endured since he lifted the lid on abuse in the sport.

“If I was to look at 13 months on from me opening my heart out, all that’s changed really is that me and my family have been driven out of the country. And that’s a sad element of it,” he said.

The leg spinner recalled incidents of abuse, including a man defecating outside his parents’ house.

“I would love to come here and tell you how much cricket has changed, but unfortunately what it feels like is that cricket is very much in denial,” the Karachi-born cricketer said.

“There are still a group of people out there who feel like cricket is the victim in this.

The way I’ve been attacked and abused, why would you speak out? I’ve got a little hope in the new (ECB) leadership, but it’s very little at the minute.”

Yorkshire County Cricket Club chair Lord Patel who also appeared in front of the committee said he felt the regulator England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s approach was “flawed”.

“In an ideal world, an independent regulator would be excellent,” he said.

“I suppose if I am realistic, the time it would take to put in primary legislation, to set up a system, we’d end up navel-gazing for years. But should the CDC (Cricket Discipline Commission) and the ECB change? Absolutely,” the peer said.

Lord Patel said the ECB was indifferent when he sought its support.

“If I was attacked in the press or if cricket leaders or previous cricket leaders made unsubstantiated statements, nothing was done”, the peer said.

He went on: “I asked in writing, and I have email after email, letter after letter, saying ‘you asked me to do this, I’ve done this, please support me’ and I have no response to any of those letters and emails. So it was very distressing.”

“I’m looking forward to the new leadership of Richard Thompson, the few meetings I’ve had with him have been positive and it feels like it’s going forward, but these last 12 months, the answer has to be ‘no’.”

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