English county side Yorkshire finds itself in the centre of a raging issue with its former players and employees backing cricketer Azeem Rafiq’s claims of “institutional racism" at the club, including reference to India’s Cheteshwar Pujara with a generic name.
Former West Indies international Tino Best and Pakistan’s Rana Naved-ul-Hasan provided evidence in support of Rafiq as part of an ongoing investigation into his allegations.
According to ESPNcricinfo, two former Yorkshire employees — Taj Butt and Tony Bowry — have also given evidence against the club which has institutionalised racism.
“(There were) continuous references to taxi drivers and restaurant workers when referring to (the) Asian community," Butt, who was employed within the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation as a community development officer, was quoted as saying by the cricket portal.
“They called every person of colour ‘Steve’. Even (India batsman) Cheteshwar Pujara, who joined as an overseas professional, was called Steve because they could not pronounce his name."
Butt tendered his resignation within six weeks of joining.
Having worked as a coach until 1996, Bowry was the cultural diversity officer at the Yorkshire Cricket Board from 1996 until 2011, before he was appointed as a cricket development manager to develop the game for black communities.
“Many youngsters struggled to make progress, and the few that did found the environment of the dressing rooms very difficult and unwelcoming, as a direct result of racism they faced," Bowry said.
“It affected performance… they were labelled trouble-makers."
Speaking about his experiences at the club, former off-spinner Rafiq who left Yorkshire in 2018, said he had been close to committing suicide after what he experienced. During an interview by the independent investigating team last month, he said that he had been “bullied and targeted because of my race".
Best, the former West Indies fast bowler who played at the club in 2010, and Rana Naved, the former Pakistan seamer who joined as an overseas player between 2008 and 2009, also supported Rafiq.
In a statement, Rana said he agreed with “each and every statement of Azeem" and that “many Asian players were affected by their (Yorkshire’s) bad attitude".
After the revelations by Rafiq, Yorkshire announced that they will initiate measures to tackle discrimination and boost inclusion in the club, including appointing a head of equality.
Rafiq welcomed the measures initiated by both Yorkshire and the England and Wales Cricket Board and sought “an urgent meeting" with the ECB in order to discuss “how we can instil cultural and racial acceptance through all age groups".
“Part of the problem I faced was that my concerns and complaints fell on deaf ears," Rafiq said.
“I raised complaints about racism, including with the head of diversity, and no one took action. The key to change is to listen and then to keep listening."