“It’s not cricket” – Azeem Rafiq and Yorkshire cricket racism
Those who follow my writings may have picked up that I like the game of cricket. I follow the game, especially when played at the higher levels, particularly my country, England, and my county, Essex, even though I have long stopped being involved at grassroots level, with modest success, as I once had, an experience I enjoyed and valued at the time. I can also add that my frequent visits to India have only gone to confirm the love of many from the Indian sub-continent for and contribution to this great game of cricket.
The term “it’s not cricket” implies that part of the ethos of the game is honesty and fairness. I have been loosely following the T20 World Cup happening right now and am pleased my team has progressed to the semi-finals. While all this was happening, a story broke concerning an unpleasant turn of events around what is arguably the greatest of all the English counties, heritage wise, when it comes to cricket – Yorkshire CCC. There is plenty “out there” as to what happened; people have chipped in with their views and there has been a significant fall out (which I will get to). For what transpired, I refer to two articles worth reading about what went on: “Azeem Rafiq: Yorkshire cricket racism scandal – how we got here” and “Azeem Rafiq: Yorkshire’s new chair Lord Patel says ex-player should be praised as ‘whistleblower’”.
At this time, one would love to have been a fly on the wall but the upshot was that Pakistani heritage player, Azeem Rafiq, who played for Yorkshire 2008 to 2018, was subject to racist abuse that was hurtful and ongoing, and it caused immense distress to the player and highlighted part of the culture of the club was institutionally racist, and who knows where else? While attempts have been made to downplay the seriousness of the allegations, including making the excuse “racist remarks” were merely harmless banter, since the story broke there have been significant fall out including the chairman of Yorkshire CCC resigning, ex-player, England cricket captain and media pundit, Michael Vaughan being suspended by the BBC because of the part it was alleged he played and Yorkshire losing the chance to host international cricket matches on their grounds, and other players telling their stories concerning what went on at the club, at that time, and one wonders where this will all end.
Before giving my views, I have little doubt that what was excused as harmless banter was unacceptable and not nice, and should not have happened. I concur racism is not banter. I also can harp back to over fifty years ago when racism was so obvious in British culture and note we have come a long way, but I also note some of those who shout loudest about racism also say / do things that are not nice to people who happen to be different and there is a propensity to jump onto bandwagons like BLM or over-react as arguably when England pace bowler Robinson was given an eight-match ban in the summer for historical racist and sexist tweets. Always there is need for a sense of proportionality while also following the golden rule. I have argued elsewhere why I do not support taking the knee, the Black Lives Matter movement or critical race theory. When I was active in the community, I did a lot of work with Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) communities and in 2009 wrote a report on what I found (see here). One of the conclusions I reached was while racism was not obvious, it existed and needed to be called out and dealt with. I hope Yorkshire CCC turn from the errors of their ways but are dealt with fairly without ruling out some form of punitive action, so we can all move on for the good of all. I hope the accusation of “it’s not cricket” will not be laid at the door of this great club again and just as in yesteryear they will lead the way on how cricket is to be played.