The evidence was damning, but not surprising. The image that Azeem Rafiq painted of English cricket culture, from the humblest clubhouse to the dressing room in England and up to the executive floors of Yorkshire and the ECB, will be recognizable to anyone with a background in the game, at any time. level.
The initiations, the jokes that are not, the blind eyes turned, the opportunities for change lost. Rafiq’s testimony was a litany of flaws and flaws, a small number well-meaning, far too malicious and cruel.
The mistakes begin in a car, traveling from a club game with Barnsley while he was still a schoolboy. Rafiq is a passenger because he is too young to drive. She is 15 year old.
Azeem Rafiq testified before a select committee of DCMS on Tuesday in Westminster.
Despite this and despite a religious faith that makes alcohol consumption illegal, a high-level cricketer, representing Yorkshire and Hampshire, holds him back and forces him to swallow red wine.
So that’s the culture at the root, ingrained and uncomplicated. You can take liberties, put aside respect and human dignity.
Words have no impact or meaning, everything is allowed under the cloak of jokes. When asked why so many of his colleagues did not recall the many insults and put-downs, Rafiq had settled regretfully in his explanation. They probably don’t remember it, he said, because it means nothing to them.
That’s a lot kinder than calling Michael Vaughan a liar or poking fun that Joe Root would follow the company line to the end. I could have done either one.
If anything, the lack of vengeance in his behavior made everything seem worse. He seemed such a decent and credible man. Not greatly motivated by the desire to see heads mounted on poles, or the ruin of impetuous individuals now in retreat.
What Rafiq wanted most was for his sport to change, to admit the mountain of mistakes, to learn and move on.
What Rafiq wanted most was for cricket to change, admit mistakes, learn and move on.
In fact, he spoke quite positively of Matthew Hoggard simply because, when the whole sorry mess was made public, the ex-England man had the integrity to call him in and apologize.
Since it turns out that it was Hoggard who coined the nickname ‘Raffa the kaffir’ (Rafiq says he had no idea at first that kaffir was a racist slur left over from apartheid-era South Africa), its acceptance seems like an act of enormous kindness.
On the other hand, as Rafiq admitted, it is very difficult to accept that you are a victim of prejudice, that a promising career will go nowhere because the world is against you, that you literally have no chance with some people and that you are it is often the people who matter.
However, to get this far, Rafiq has had to admit that throughout his young life he was the victim of a vile conspiracy and doomed to failure. And that when he finally accepted this, no one in authority, in Yorkshire or the ECB, cared enough to act beyond saving his own skin or hiding behind the process. Not even CEO Tom Harrison, who recently shared a £ 2.1 million bonus for “spreading the game.” As much as one could pay.
Rafiq (center) celebrates with former teammates Joe Root (left) and Gary Ballance (right) the rise of the Yorkshire seal to Division One in 2012
Rafiq was by far the most impressive figure in that committee room on Tuesday.
Louder than many of the mediocre minds asking the questions – Steve Brine and Alex Davies-Jones, my God – certainly more relevant to the future of the game than the men and women who answer them.
Unbelievably, when the story of red wine was told at 15, no one thought to link it to a culture that permeates the sport right down to England’s locker room.
Gary Ballance, 23 Tests for England and a close friend of Root’s, called anyone of color ‘Kevin’.
It became a locker room joke, Rafiq said, that when Alex Hales, Ballance’s partner in England, bought a black dog, he was also named Kevin.
The Yorkshire players also found Cheteshwar Pujara’s name too troublesome – understandable, actually, it has three syllables as hard-to-pronounce English names like William and Oliver – so they named him Steve. And this was savagely repeated, most notably by Shane Warne during the commentary on the 2020-21 Australia-India series.
Ballance, who played in 23 test matches for England, called anyone of color ‘Kevin’
Rafiq claimed that his England international partner Alex Hales used the word ‘Kevin’ for his dog (pictured together on the athlete’s Instagram) after Ballance coined it for a person of color.
Since equivalency is the newest hobby, there will undoubtedly be those who still cannot see the problem. Cesar Azpilicueta is known as Dave in Chelsea and nobody seems to care. However, for “other” entire nonsense races, as Ballance did, it goes beyond that.
Throughout history, the process of dehumanization invariably implies a departure from the personal. That is why prisoners are given numbers, not titles. What may have started out as a goofy joke about the complexity of some unfamiliar names turns into outrage when you have the same laugh at the expense of all people of color.
It makes them all equal, it strips a person of individuality and character. It becomes an insult and nothing more. This is no more a joke than calling a man P ** i.
The most gruesome revelations in Rafiq’s testimony concerned his cold and cruel treatment by Yorkshire after his son’s death. “I took him from the hospital to the cemetery, the way they treat me here is not right,” he lamented in a particularly heartbreaking exchange.
However, if Yorkshire has created a culture where people of color don’t even have names, why should we be surprised by the complete lack of empathy for their lives?
The most gruesome revelations in Rafiq’s testimony concerned his cold and cruel treatment by Yorkshire after his son’s death.
What started in a car on its way to Barnsley permeates the sport. Players raised in a culture that poured red wine down a 15-year-old Muslim’s throat, advanced to the county’s top dressing rooms and coaching staff. Martyn Moxon of Yorkshire was also a Barnsley man.
What was clear throughout Rafiq’s testimony was the sense of isolation. No one noticed his anguish, no one was brave or powerful enough to defy the gods of jokes, no one came to his aid.
When he finally confronted Yorkshire, they saw themselves as the victims and tried to discredit him in any way they could. He highlighted an image of those who considered his complaint.
“That the panel is entertained by Yorkshire in the Headingley test match shows how untouchable they thought they were,” Rafiq said. “They thought that old Azeem Rafiq, no one will believe him.”
They were wrong. No one who passed nearly two hours of testing on Tuesday could argue that the accuser was not credible. No one could argue that it was inconsistent. No one could argue that their backstage stories weren’t so woefully credible.
Rafiq, 30, insists he would not let his son get anywhere near cricket after his experience
Of course, there may still be jokes, there may still be drinking, the way forward is not to completely disinfect the club atmosphere. At no point did Rafiq speak as a man who did not love his sport and what it could be. However, at one point he was asked, as Barnsley’s father, how he views cricket now.
“I cannot imagine that a father, hearing me speak today, wants his son to come close to cricket,” he replied. ‘I don’t want my son to go near the game.
As a parent, I would say keep an eye on your children because this is the reality. I would not let my son go there and leave them in the hands of these people. ‘
And no doubt there will be some in Yorkshire, or beyond, who are hurt or offended by such a disparaging generalization.
At least now they will have an idea of a fragment of the pain that Rafiq has suffered.