In recent weeks, one of the conversations that have rocked the world of cricket has been centred around racism, after former England U-19 captain Azeem Rafiq called out the abuse he had faced at Yorkshire, the most successful county.
Rafiq, who in 2012 became the youngest man to captain the Yorkshire side as well as the first person of Asian origin to do so, gave evidence of the abuse he had faced to the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
The 30-year-old’s harrowing testimony has not only shocked the cricketing world but also resulted in a call for change and course correction.
The well-travelled former England cricketer Owais Shah, who also has Pakistani roots like Rafiq, was quite clear that racism needs to eliminated not just in the sport but in society as well. Shah urged the England Cricket Board to take strong steps to fight the battle against racism so that another episode like this does not occur.
“I was listening to Azeem Rafiq’s testimony on YouTube and it seems like a horrific ordeal that he had to go through day in day out, listening to some of the senior players at Yorkshire saying derogatory terms to him,” Shah told The Quint.
The former Essex man noted that the culture at Yorkshire cricket wasn’t quite right.
“For me the bigger issue is that the players were able to get away with saying that and that just shows that the culture of club is not quite right. It’s the responsibility of senior players and coaches to say that we don’t encourage behaviour like that. And for that not to happen is absolutely shocking.”
“I am extremely disappointed at what Azeem Rafiq had to go through. I really wish that in society we can look past the colour of someone’s skin, their religion, where they come from, their background, it’s irrelevant.
“We need to find a way to get rid of racism in sport and more importantly in society.”
Shah, who has played in India in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well, asserted that using the P word was absolutely over the line.
“Disappointed at how Yorkshire handled the matter. I heard the P word was used towards Azeem Rafiq to say it was banter. I don’t think it is banter, specially in England we know that is a derogatory term and you don’t use that word as banter.”
“But we need to find a solution so that we don’t have another episode of this.”
When asked if he was surprised by the incidents of racism, especially given that Rafiq had made it very clear about how racism was present all over, Shah explained that the fact that players from other counties had come forward in support meant “the problem is there and it is clear the problem is in up and down the country not just at Yorkshire.”
What’s the Way Forward?
Shah further added that this was a chance to fix the situation and urged the authorities to take the right steps.
“ECB have to make a stand and put something into place in all the counties because they’re the governing body to make sure that every decision that is made has no bias towards any one because of the colour of their skin.”
“Any decision has to be made on merit and if somebody deserves to be in a position they certainly should regardless of gender, class, colour of skin or religion. It should not matter. If that person is the best one for the job they should get it.”
“This example at Yorkshire should really force ECB to put things into place in the English game so that we don’t have this at any county,” Shah asserted.