Former Yorkshire players and employees have given evidence in support of Azeem Rafiq as part of the investigation into allegations of institutional racism at the club.
Rafiq spoke out about his experiences at Yorkshire this summer, telling ESPNcricinfo in September that he had been close to committing suicide after what he experienced. He was interviewed by the independent investigating team last month, and said that he had been “bullied and targeted because of my race”.
Two former Yorkshire employees to have given evidence were Taj Butt and Tony Bowry. Butt, who was employed within the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation as a community development officer, offered his resignation within six weeks of joining, which he said was due to targeted language used at the club.
“[There were] continuous references to taxi drivers and restaurant workers when referring to [the] Asian community,” he said. “They called every person of colour ‘Steve’. Even [India batsman] Cheteshwar Pujara, who joined as an overseas professional, was called Steve because they could not pronounce his name.”
Bowry worked at the club as a coach until 1996 and as a cultural diversity officer at the Yorkshire Cricket Board from 1996 until 2011, before he was appointed as a cricket development manager to develop the game for black communities.
“Many youngsters struggled to make progress, and the few that did found the environment of the dressing rooms very difficult and unwelcoming, as a direct result of racism they faced,” he said. “It affected performance… they were labelled trouble-makers.”
Tino Best, the former West Indies fast bowler who played at the club in 2010, and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, the former Pakistan seamer who joined as an overseas player between 2008 and 2009, both reiterated their previous support for Rafiq.
Yorkshire announced last month that they will appoint a head of equality in a bid to boost inclusion after the ECB revealed a number of new measures to tackle discrimination.
Rafiq welcomed the measures both organisations had taken, and said that he would seek “an urgent meeting” with the ECB in order to discuss “how we can instil cultural and racial acceptance through all age groups”.
“Part of the problem I faced was that my concerns and complaints fell on deaf ears,” Rafiq said. “I raised complaints about racism, including with the head of diversity, and no one took action. The key to change is to listen and then to keep listening.”
In response, Yorkshire said in a statement to ESPNcricinfo: “We recognise that county clubs, with their vast pipeline of talent across age groups, are crucial to ensuring equality and addressing issues of racism in cricket. We wholeheartedly support the recently announced ECB initiatives and want to be part of meaningful change across all levels of the game.
“In addition to the ECB measures, we will also seek to implement the recommendations due to be made by the independent investigation panel considering the allegations made by our former player, Azeem Rafiq. We appreciate that this is a distressing time for all involved, but this is an important investigation and we have committed to a full and thorough process to provide an in-depth set of recommendations which we will publish in early 2021.
“Cricket is enjoyed by diverse audiences throughout the UK and around the world but it is clear that we must do much more to improve inclusion, address issues of inequality and truly reflect and embrace the many communities who contribute so much to our sport.”
West Indies vs South Africa
19-year-old quick has big future, says captain, after three-wicket debut
Seales, 19, had played just one first-class game before he was thrust into the Test team against South Africa – and that came last winter on West Indies’ tour of New Zealand – but Kraigg Brathwaite, the captain, said he saw enough in that display to know he was ready for higher honours.
“The first time I saw him was in New Zealand, and I just knew he had a natural length,” Brathwaite said. “Not all bowlers have that natural length, and he obviously swings the ball. So I was not surprised by his performance in this game, or for the future.”
Seales finished South Africa’s only innings of the first Test with figures of 3 for 75 in 21 overs, having bagged his maiden wicket in his first over of the game, as Keegan Petersen spliced an edge to Jason Holder at second slip. He followed up with two more in consecutive overs at the end of the first day, before Quinton de Kock took the match away with a superb 141 not out.
“I think he’s something special and obviously he’s quite young, he’s only played one first-class game,” Brathwaite said. “That says a lot. Even at practice, there are different little things that he does with the ball, and what he says to back it up, is quite phenomenal. For sure, he’s one for the future, big time.
“Fast bowling is hard work. In this game, he bowled over 20 overs and he never once complained. Obviously he’s young, but he was strong, his pace was up throughout, and I really think he’s something special for sure.”
With his strong approach to the crease and powerful shoulders though his action, Seales drew some mid-match comparison with West Indies’ star of the second innings, Kagiso Rabada, who mopped up the resistance with figures of 5 for 34, his first five-wicket haul since March 2018.
“He is a great prospect for West Indies,” Rabada said. “They have always produced those who can bowl really well, right from the 1980s. They are continuing the prestigious lineage of producing fast bowlers.
“He has come to the fore,” he added. “I don’t know how much he tried to copy me. I think he is just natural. I don’t see a huge similarity, maybe a small similarity between our bowling. He is a good bowler and he showed that. I wish him all the best.”
Reflecting on West Indies’ failings in the first Test, Brathwaite rued their collapse to 97 all out on the first day of the match, after which their defeat was only ever a matter of time. However, he denied he had erred in choosing to bat first.
“We saw today some variable bounce, the pitch was a little dry, but we didn’t bat well in the first innings so we were under pressure from the start.,” he said. “We were always on the back foot.”
“[South Africa] are quality bowlers but even batting second we thought they would be quality. In the second Test, we’ve got to bat better. As a group we bowled well, and Seales in his first Test was magnificent. [Roston] Chase showed fight today, but that first innings hampered us a lot.”
“We’ll take a little break and come back stronger,” he added. “For me it’s about getting your mind in the right place. It’s more mental than technical.”
PSL 2021 – Islamabad United’s Hasan Ali to miss rest of season
The fast bowler will fly back to Pakistan for personal reasons
“I want to say to all Islamabad United fans, unfortunately due to personal reasons I have to pull out of the remaining PSL matches,” Hasan said in an Islamabad United statement. “Some things are more important than cricket and nothing is more important than family. I am thankful to Islamabad United for their support and understanding. This team truly is a family that stands with you through thick and thin. I wish the team very best of luck for the remaining PSL matches.”
Hasan’s absence will be a blow to Islamabad, who are currently second on the PSL table with eight points from six matches. Hasan is the joint third-highest wicket-taker in the tournament as on Saturday evening, with 10 wickets at an average of 14.00, and, even more impressively, an economy rate of 5.83 across 24 overs.
Recent Match Report – SE Stars vs Diamonds 2021
England great plays her part in three-wicket win as she revels in new mindset
Northern Diamonds 254 for 7 (Kalis 76, Langston 59* Gunn 50) beat South East Stars 250 for 6 (White 73) by three wickets with four balls remaining
This is a higher-profile, professional game, the type of match Taylor was not sure she would ever play again. But earlier this year she agreed to play for Welsh Fire in The Hundred and she is plainly satisfied that returning to the game will no longer risk harming her mental health. Playing cricket, you see, is now only one of the things Sarah Taylor does. There is teaching at Bede’s in East Sussex; there is coaching at the County Ground in Hove, where she works with the full-time professional wicketkeepers and the Academy players; there is, in other words, a balanced life.
The first ball is bowled by Beth Langston and Bryony Smith plays it out to midwicket where Ami Campbell trots in to field. Already Sarah is up at the stumps to collect the return, although there is not the remotest possibility of a run. A pattern has been set, one that will be familiar to wicketkeepers of whatever standard throughout the game.
The eighth delivery of the morning is bowled by Phoebe Graham and it jags back a little to Alice Davidson-Richards, whose cut is now a cramped ungainly effort. The ball would have passed over middle stump and down leg side but it catches Davidson-Richards’ glove and flies between wicketkeeper and first slip. Taylor has transferred her weight to her left but dives back, holds the ball in her right gauntlet… and spills it. It would have been a stunning grab. There is little more she could have done except hang on to the thing.
“I had it!” she said afterwards. “It was literally in my webbing and I just hit the deck. The girls will tell you I was talking about it when we were batting. I did the hard work and I was thinking, ‘Yes, stunner!’ and then my elbow hit the ground and it popped out. But to be fair, it was nice to get there. I felt rusty, believe me, but it was just nice to dust the cobwebs off. Legs, back, hands…Yeah, pretty happy with that. That was good fun.”
After that eighth ball Taylor returned to the more routine habits and skills of her chosen trade. Over the next three hours she squatted down over 300 times and the ball was returned to her after the vast majority of deliveries. It frequently went to her directly, of course, and her takes were clean, unfussy, professional. There is never a point in an innings when wicketkeepers are not involved in the game and Taylor was constantly encouraging, congratulating or commiserating with her new colleagues. She was the focus around which the Northern Diamonds’ efforts revolved. In the 48th over there was a stumping off Jenny Gunn that Taylor clearly thought was a decent shout but Tom Lungley took a different view. South East Stars scored 250 for 6 in 50 overs and 14 of the runs came from wides. There were no byes.
Cricket often seems a game more suited to playing than watching. A match is frequently a theatre of private, some might say arcane, skills that are nevertheless placed on public display. And few are more private than wicketkeeping. Batters drive through the covers, bowlers scatter stumps, fielders arrow flat returns… and a wicketkeeper removes the bails or takes catches – many of which, so spectators blithely assume, anyone could take.
At times it is viewed as being to the keepers’ credit if no one except the umpire notices their work. This is a semi-private art, a quiet confection of skills in which gloves receive the ball with as little noise as possible. It is an art which seems to attract eccentricity and sometimes accommodates extroversion but one in which flamboyance can be considered almost vulgar.
Wicketkeepers can be show-people demanding a reaction, they can be sergeants keeping the troops’ morale up, and yet their skills are on a par with the most skilful craftsmen. This was more or less Sarah Taylor’s only world for well over a decade of her life. Now it is Sarah and she is helping out the Northern Diamonds for a while. This is the cricketer Adam Gilchrist once named as the best wicketkeeper in the world.
“You do miss the feeling of winning those games,” said Taylor. “We were out of it, let’s be honest. It’s so good to be part of a team like this and I’ve also got a nice balance in my life now. I’ve got my main job at the school and I’ve got the luxury of working with the guys at Sussex. That is a learning curve and a good challenge. I hate to say it but I don’t need cricket. I don’t need to play whereas before I needed to and there was a lot more pressure.”
Sarah Taylor never shut the door on professional cricket and now that the game is no longer the sole focus of her career it is plain she is ready to make some room for it again. It is also clear that she has so much to give, not least to herself.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
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