Yorkshire whistleblower Azeem Rafiq has called for the cricket club’s suspension for hosting matches in England to be lifted after they took steps to address a racism scandal. The heads of England stripped Yorkshire of the right to host international matches at their Headingley grounds in Leeds in November in response to the county’s handling of the Rafiq case. The Pakistan-born former spinner accused the club of not adequately dealing with racist abuses he endured while playing for them and told a parliamentary inquiry it had ended his career.
Since then, there has been a massive clean-up at the club, with massive departures from the boardroom and coaching staff, while a new chairman, Kamlesh Patel, has become the face of a new regime.
As well as overseeing a culture shift at the club, Patel also has pressing commercial concerns that need to be addressed following an exodus of sponsors and the decision of the England and Wales Cricket Board to suspend Headingley’s international status.
Yorkshire HQ has been assigned a lucrative test match against New Zealand in June, as well as a one-day international against South Africa next month, and Rafiq wants those dates honored.
He wrote in the Daily Mail: “It has been a whirlwind since I appeared before MPs nearly two months ago, and what Yorkshire and Lord Patel have done to change is definitely a step in the right direction.
“Therefore I believe the time is right to say that they should give back the international cricket that is so vital to their survival. The people of Yorkshire should be able to watch England at the Test and Whiteball matches at Headingley this summer,” he said. added.
Rafiq said it was good to acknowledge that the club was trying to move in the right direction, even if not everything was “hunky-dory”.
He added that the province should be monitored.
But he said: “The last thing I want now is for children in Leeds, Bradford and the rest of the county to be denied the high-level cricket that could inspire them.
“Rather than solving the problems in the game, Yorkshire’s international suspension could exacerbate these problems,” he added.
Patel later told the BBC that he was “encouraged” by Rafiq’s comments.
“My only focus, besides dealing with all the issues we face, is to make sure that international competitions return here as soon as possible, because that’s where everything depends on our future,” said Patel.
He added that he was “very confident” that Yorkshire would meet and exceed the ECB’s criteria, but warned that not hosting international competitions would have serious consequences.
“There is no doubt that it would be a massive financial crisis,” Patel said.
The parliamentary committee that heard Rafiq’s strong testimony in November will publish its report on the matter on Friday.
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