English cricketer Azeem Rafiq has recounted the ‘institutionally racist’ English cricket culture before the parliamentary committee room during his nearly decade-long stay at county side Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018.
The off-spinner, who moved from Pakistan to the UK in 2001 and played a total of 39 First-Class games taking 72 wickets, has said that England players Alex Hales and Gary Balance would refer to cricketer of colour as ‘Kevin’, adding that the former had also named his dog ‘Kevin’, as it was black, according to The Guardian on Tuesday.
“There were comments such as, ‘You lot sit there near the toilets’, ‘Elephant washers’,” Rafiq alleged. “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.”
The 30-year-old, originally from Karachi in Pakistan, who began his cricketing career with England age-group sides including U-15, U-17 and U-19, alleged that Ballance had openly slammed teammates for speaking to him during a pre-season camp.
“We were in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes: ‘Why are you talking to him? You know he’s a Paki.’ He’s not a sheikh, he’s got no oil. This happened in front of teammates. It happened in front of the coaching staff,” said Rafiq.
Rafiq also recounted a “painful experience” where he was forced to drink alcohol when he was 15.
“I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat, literally down my throat,” the 30-year-old said. “The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire. I then didn’t touch alcohol until about 2012 and around that time I felt I had to do that to fit in.”
Rafiq’s comments come days after former England skipper Michael Vaughan had categorically denied racist involvement at Yorkshire, following Rafiq’s explosive press conference where he highlighted an incident involving Vaughan.
Rafiq alleged that Vaughan had said there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” before a game in 2009. Vaughan, has, however, denied it.
In fact, English cricketer Adil Rashid has supported Rafiq’s claim on Vaughan. “I wanted to concentrate as much as possible on my cricket and to avoid distractions to the detriment of the team, but I can confirm Azeem Rafiq’s recollection of Michael Vaughan’s comments to a group of us Asian players.” Rashid told The Cricketer.
During his parliamentary committee deposition, which lasted nearly two hours, Rafiq said, “That’s the institution. You have people who are openly racist. And then you have the bystanders. Lots of people saw it happen. No one felt strong enough to say stop.”
Rafiq added that his career suffered a lot because of racism. “Yes, I do (agree my career suffered),” added Rafiq.