• Wednesday, May 18, 2022

CRICKET

Rafiq seeks justice after accusing Yorkshire of racism

Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq. (Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

By: Sattwik Biswal

AFTER accusing Yorkshire of institutionalised racism, the county cricket club launched an investigation. It has been months now, Azeem Rafiq has heard nothing.

“I spoke out and I thought it would be the start of a healing process but it’s been anything but that,” the 30-year-old told Sportsmail.

“It’s been really difficult for me to understand how it has all unfolded. I’ve had some dark days. I wanted to be as honest as possible and I wanted everyone to know what was going on at Yorkshire when I played there.

“But I don’t think cricket wants to listen. I don’t feel as though the game is in any way prepared to do something really meaningful about all this. I’ve been left really hurt.”

It all started when after his close to 10 years of association with Yorkshire, Rafiq decided to leave in 2018, and in a tweet mentioned about things he would like to improve.

Later media took interest in what he said and did more interviews, leading to Yorkshire taking notice and setting up the inquiry.

He sat down with the inquiry and said, “you’ve been handed a massive responsibility”. But since that day there has been no communication from their side.

An off-spinning allrounder who captained England in the U-19 World Cup in 2010, a side which had the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. But for Rafiq, all that is behind and now what he wants is justice.

“At the start of this I didn’t want to cause any trouble for anyone but the further I’ve gone through the process I do think there has to be some level of accountability. It’s very important if any trust is to be won back. I do want justice,” he said.

Rafiq says when he spoke he expected people to listen and act but now they want all of this “to go away”.

“The whole reason for speaking out was to get some sort of closure. I never expected that to be easy but it’s been tough to hear about some of the things that have been happening behind the scenes.

“I want to give Yorkshire a chance but it’s getting to the point where I feel enough is enough. I did not think I would be getting threats to my family and my business. Whether that’s me being naive or not I don’t know but the political side of this has been a real eye opener for me. And how the system works. I genuinely thought people would want to listen and find a way to move forward. Now I just think they want it all to go away.”

At Yorkshire, Rafiq claims he was a victim of regular verbal abuse and also being called a ‘P***’ and ‘elephant washer’. A leading figure at the club said ‘there’s too many of you lot here’, referring to British Asian players at Yorkshire. During his playing time, he says there was a captain who was openly racist.

Rafiq, seeking a closure to this matter and expects to see some humanity in the game, said: “I don’t think this conversation is ever going to become comfortable but people need to start looking at themselves and the affect they can have on people. I think not being racist is good enough anymore.

“You can’t just say ‘I’m staying out of it.’ I really don’t think anyone who is in a position to affect change can do that anymore. Surely there has to be some humanity in the game and it’s time we saw some of that now.”

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