Was Pujara a victim of racism in county cricket? Azeem Rafiq reveals while recalling horrific Yorkshire stint
Azeem Rafiq has rattled English cricket with his sensational racism allegations against Yorkshire. During his declaration in front of the tribunal, he also mentioned Chenteshwar Pujara being a victim.
English cricketer Azeem Rafiq has left English cricket unnerved with allegations of ‘institutionally racist’ cricket culture in the country against county cricket club Yorkshire. On Wednesday, he appeared in front of the parliamentary committee to declare the racist slurs he faced during his decade-long stay with the county between 2008-18.
Rafiq claimed 208 wickets in 156 matches in the domestic circuit as an off-spinner but never got to play for England. During his revelation, he said that Alex Hales and Gary Balance would refer to Asian cricketers as ‘Kevin’, while Hales had a dog by the same name that was black, reports multiple media outlets.
“There were comments such as, ‘You lot sit there near the toilets’, ‘Elephant washers’. The word Paki was used constantly. And, there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders, and no one stamped it out,” he said. He even revealed that Indian batter Cheteshwar Pujara was referred to as ‘Steve’.
“Once I left the club, Cheteshwar Pujara joined the club, and Jack Brooks, I think, started it where he didn’t feel the need to call him by his first name. Everyone called (Pujara ‘Steve’), high-profile players around the world, and it shows the institutional failings,” he further admitted in front of the committee.
Rafiq also became emotional at a point while talking through the abuse on his wife online. He revealed the inhuman behaviour he received from the club while his wife was having a difficult pregnancy during the birth of their first child. He also alleged that his sister and the illness of his father were treated poorly.
He further revealed that he was forced to have alcohol by a player from his local cricket club at the age of 15, while the accused has played for Yorkshire and Hamshire. “I then didn’t touch alcohol until about 2012, and around that time, I felt I had to do that to fit in,” he explained.
Rafiq also announced that besides the club players and administrative members, some commentators were also involved in the same, including legendary commentator David Lloyd. Immediately after Rafiq’s allegations, the commentator acknowledged the same and whole-heartedly apologised on Twitter.
On the other hand, former Yorkshire Roger Hutton, too, recognised that Yorkshire is institutionally racist. “Yes, I fear that [the club] falls within that definition. The CEO made it clear that he did not want to apologise to Azeem Rafiq. There was a clear resistance to see Azeem as the victim and a failure to look at the recommendations of the panel,” he told Kevin Brennan MP.
Rafiq continued with his allegations that the club protected Ballance and even covered up his drug and alcohol issues. “When he failed a recreational drug test and was forced to miss some games, the club informed the public he was missing games because he was struggling with anxiety and mental health issues,” he reckoned.
Rafiq was also left hurt by English Test skipper Joe Root’s comments on not noticing racism at the club. “He’s [Root] never engaged in racist language. I found [his statement] hurtful because Rooty was not only Gary’s housemate but before he started playing for England, he was involved in a lot of those socialising nights out where I’d been called a P**i,” Rafiq stated.
He concluded by speaking on how he lost his career to racism. “Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes, I do,” he considered. However, he hoped to see a significant change on the prevalent issue within five years. He also confirmed that what he has done right now is far better than his achievements in his career, besides agreeing that it has been horrible and hurtful.