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Thursday, December 09, 2021

With discussion on racism in the game becoming louder, English cricket finds itself at a watershed moment

When celebrated captains don’t feel the need to confront the problem, it is no wonder that racists, by and large, get away with it.

By: Editorial |
Updated: November 18, 2021 9:42:44 am
Racism and other hurdles conspire to make sure that the system turns whiter and whiter as they go forward.

Of all the racist episodes that the Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq recounted in his witness statement to a UK parliamentary committee, it’s the memory failure of two individuals that tells the tale of the state of affairs. The current England Test captain Joe Root, who Rafiq called a “good guy”, has said he couldn’t recollect any unsavoury episodes. Azeem has made it clear that Root was present when others called him “Paki” on many occasions but he did not intervene. When a good guy can’t remember, what hope is there that the conscience of others will be stirred?

Former captain Michael Vaughan has denied that he ever told Rafiq and three other Asian-origin cricketers that “there are too many of you lot”. When celebrated captains don’t feel the need to confront the problem, it is no wonder that racists, by and large, get away with it. Telling people to “sit near the loos” or calling them “elephant washers” (as Rafiq says Matthew Hoggard, former bowler, would do) isn’t banter. When the system covers it up, this toxicity takes a toll on those like Rafiq who are at the receiving end.

Dr Thomas Fletcher, whose report about community engagement in the Yorkshire and England Cricket board was referenced in Rafiq’s witness statement, told this newspaper that he didn’t hear a word from the establishment after he had tabled it. His study tried to find out why only very few British Asians progress through the professional ranks when about 30 per cent of young people who play cricket in the country belong to these groups. Racism and other hurdles conspire to make sure that the system turns whiter and whiter as they go forward. Many hurdles can still be leaped over by ambition and hard work but which parent would willingly send their kid into a poisoned environment? With Lord Kamlesh Patel taking over Yorkshire cricket, discussion in parliament over racism in cricket, public shaming of big names, England cricket finds itself at a watershed moment.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on November 18, 2021 under the title ‘No covering it up’.

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