By Miles Meagre
‘In the game of cricket, a googly refers to a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler. It is different from the normal delivery for a leg-spin bowler in that it is turning the other way.’
Overwhelmingly leg spinners are (or were) seen as an elite group in the game of cricket. It helped that the degree of expertise and sheer muscular control defeat all but a few attracted to attempt the art – one that encourages guile, cunning to bamboozle batters. Australian Shane Warne (1969-2022) and India’s Anil Kumble (b. 1970), somehow managed to master this art form to perfection over long careers. Few who try ever do. There’s too much that goes wrong and when it does batters make hay.
Azeem Rafiq had ambition to join the elite leg spinners but like many others, ambition is not enough. Instead, his brief career at an end he made claims of racial discrimination against Yorkshire county cricket club and repeated these before a televised hearing in front of a Parliamentary Committee. The fall out – and falling out – have been epic. A charge of ‘institutional racism’ was made against all professional cricket in the U.K. and has been accepted without demur. Numerous articles written by people not hitherto suspected of an enthusiasm for the game expressed the view that they always suspected it was so.
According to Wikipedia,
Of the 43 complaints submitted by Rafiq, the report upheld seven complaints. The most damaging however, was:
Rafiq alleged that in 2009, during a county match against Nottinghamshire, (Yorkshire and England team captain Michael Vaughan) said while referring to a number of players of Asian descent that there “…are too many of you lot. We need to do something about it.” A statement also remembered by other players present.
The panel that assessed the report found that YCCC “failed to implement its policies and procedures” in relation to the complaints raised by Rafiq, and their subsequent handling of those complaints. On the assumption of a new chairperson, Lord Kamlesh Patel on 8 November 2021, he promised to release the full [in its entirety] report to all interested parties.
Subsequently Mr Rafiq received compensation from Yorkshire County Cricket Club of £200,000 for his experience at the hands of the county side.
Lord Patel, replacing Richard Hutton a former Yorkshire player, was briefly Chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket club but has since resigned citing resistance to his tenure, after twenty staff resigned.
‘It is a delivery that is bowled with a scrambled seam and turns away from the batter.’
‘I have been driven out of the country‘ Azeem Rafiq told MPs he has been forced to leave the UK because of the abuse he has received since he first gave evidence of the racism he faced while at Yorkshire County Cricket Club; he also accused the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) of leaking stories about him.
However, a number of people were disquieted with the manner that these accusations accepted as proven and the impact these were having on cricket in the U.K. as much for the size of the pay out for Mr Rafiq’s hurt feelings. Cricket was ‘institutionally racist’, a crime that to some observers requires today scant if any evidence beyond allegations.
The ECB, the ultimate authority for professional cricket in the United Kingdom, appointed its own Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) to hear evidence on this affair in November 2022 but this has had to be put back and is expected to be held this coming March. Usually this Commission sits in private but Mr Rafiq wishes for a public hearing to expose what he sees as continuing racism in the professional game and the CDC has seemingly fallen in with his wishes.
The Daily Mirror reports that four of seven players or staff members charged with misconduct by the CDC have withdrawn from the voluntary process; Matthew Hoggard claimed the ECB had ‘failed everybody’ and Tim Bresnan said he felt he had been “charged and tried without ever having been arrested”. Yet more of those accused are ‘considering their position’. There are credible claims of procedural unfairness.
This may or may not have something to do with a series of stories and claims made about Mr Rafiq subsequent to his allegations and tearful appearance before Parliaments Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in November 2021.
‘It is a delivery that is squeezed into the fingers to produce backspin. The ball keeps low and is generally difficult to play.’
There are published accounts of Mr Rafiq’s racism. About the time Mr Rafiq alleged he was subject to abuse at Yorkshire, texts he sent a fellow player revealed his anti-Semitism. Mr Rafiq acknowledged these texts and apologised. However, his claim to the CDC that he was made to drink alcohol around this time 2008-14 (forbidden to devout Moslems) was seemingly at odds with evidence provided (after the compensation award made by Yorkshire County Cricket club) by Ms Gayathri Ajith.
‘[Ms Gayathri] said he sent the inappropriate Whatsapp messages to her in December 2015, three months after they met on a flight from Manchester to Dubai.
Ms Ajith, who was 16-years-old when they met, said she told the professional cricketer she was 17 to “seem a bit older” and agreed to have a vodka coke with him on the plane, but turned down an invitation to have dinner with him in Dubai.Screenshots of messages from a number belonging to Mr Rafiq, sent in December 2015, read: “u know what I wanted to do on the plane?” and “I want to grab you push u up against wall and kiss you”.
When she said “do you realise that I’m only 17?” she was asked: “Does tht mean it not allowed to want to kiss me” and “Wud u have let me kiss u?”.
Ms Ajith, who is now 22 and lives in Yorkshire, described his message as “creepy” and was so perturbed by Mr Rafiq, she asked: “How do I know that you’re no some absolute pervert”?.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “I was just kind of shocked by the crudity of those messages. They were just so vulgar.
“I’m not disputing any of his racism claims, because I’m sure they’re very true experiences. But certain aspects of what he said just don’t really sit right with me.
“If he was being forced to drink by his teammates, then surely that wouldn’t then mean he would be drinking alone on a flight and encouraging a 17-year-old girl to be drinking with him.”
She added: “His behaviour towards me was a direct contradiction really of what he said in his testimony.’
This revelation has been followed by others.
Mr Rafiq, the central figure in English cricket’s racism scandal, allegedly exposed himself to a chambermaid at the Yorkshire team hotel in Northampton in August 2012, and then to a female member of the Yorkshire backroom staff during the Champions League competition in South Africa some three months later.
The claims appear in a High Court document filed on Monday in the case of Wayne Morton, the former England physiotherapist and head of sports science and medicine at Yorkshire, who is suing the club for breach of contract after he was one of 14 staff members sacked last December for signing a letter that questioned Mr Rafiq’s character and so-called “one-man mission to bring down the club”.
A spokesperson for Mr Rafiq claimed that the allegations were part of a “twisted campaign of lies”.
Late last year just prior to the planned November hearings before the ECB’s CDC The Daily Mail landed another bomb shell.
‘EXCLUSIVE: Yorkshire racism whistleblower Azeem Rafiq is accused of anti-Semitism, homophobia and fat-shaming kids in explosive claims by former team-mates and officials’
‘But several former Yorkshire players have told Sportsmail that Rafiq commonly used anti-Semitic and abusive language while playing for the club’s second XI, claiming he singled out one particular player for abuse on the grounds that he ‘looked Jewish’.
Rafiq was not the only Yorkshire player who used such language, which appears to have been accepted in the dressing room, but it is claimed he was at the forefront of the abuse…. He may say he was just trying to fit in, but he was the ring-leader.
‘There was one player he used to call a “Jew” all the time. He said this player looked Jewish, which he wasn’t. This sounds bizarre and was clearly wrong, but it was an accepted way to speak in the dressing room at the time. Azeem was a senior player in that side and was at the forefront of it.’
Rafiq is also accused of ignoring another complaint … Paul Wilkinson telling Sportsmail that several attempts to secure an apology for alleged homophobic abuse were blanked. Wilkinson claims that the former Yorkshire spinner twice called him a ‘f****t’ while playing for Darfield … in May 2009.’
Rafiq’s former team-mates at Barnsley, … have also made allegations of misconduct, with former chairman Andrew Froggett telling Sportsmail he saw Rafiq bully overweight children during a coaching session …
‘Azeem was coaching a group of young teenagers as he was doing his level three coaching badge at the time,’ Froggett said. ‘… he put all the bigger, overweight lads in one side, and the slimmer kids in the other. Then he said, “Come on, it’s shirts v skins”, and made the bigger lads take their tops off. We said, “You can’t do that”, and he just replied, “They shouldn’t be fat b******s”.’
‘It is a delivery that produces more dip and bounce and spins towards the batter.’
The meeting of the CDC in March, when (or if) it happens, may do no more than scuff up the pitch the unsatisfactory response to the Rafiq Affair has produced. It seems absolutely unlikely to dilute or remove the stain of racism from cricket in the UK which many have taken as proven. Just as with Lady Susan Hussey and Ms Headley (or Fulani), the accusation itself removed any thorough analysis. The accusation was all of it.
This scandal still has some way to go, but the damage is done. Maybe that was the intention?