English cricket rife with racism: Rafiq

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Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq has told a British parliamentary committee of "inhuman" treatment at the cricket club and described the sport in England as riddled with racism.

In more than an hour of emotion-charge testimony, Rafiq, 30, a former England Under-19s captain of Pakistani descent, catalogued a culture of widespread racism at Yorkshire.

Rafiq said things only improved at Yorkshire when Jason Gillespie was head coach but turned toxic after the Australian left in 2016.

He and other players with Asian backgrounds were subjected to racial slurs such as "You lot sit over there" and referred to as "P***" and "elephant washers", Rafiq said.

"I felt isolated, humiliated at times," he said during testimony to the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) panel.

"I lost my career to racism."

The scandal has shaken English sport, cost Yorkshire sponsors and the right to host England internationals, the club's top brass have quit, and embroiled some of the biggest names in English cricket including former England captain Michael Vaughan and Test skipper Joe Root.

During testimony, Rafiq also made fresh claims of racial discrimination against former England internationals Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, Alex Hales and Gary Ballance.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson commended Rafiq for his "brave testimony", saying on Twitter there was no excuse for racism anywhere in society.

"We expect @EnglandCricket and @YorkshireCCC to take immediate action in response to these allegations," Johnson said.

Rafiq, a Pakistan-born Muslim off-spin bowler who played for Yorkshire from 2008-14 and again from 2016-18, recounted having red wine poured down his throat as a 15-year-old and spoke of Asian players being singled out for mistakes.

Rafiq broke down as he recounted how, the day he had returned to the club in 2018 after his baby son was stillborn, director of cricket Martyn Moxon had "ripped the shreds off me" in a meeting.

"Some of the club officials were inhuman," he said.

He also said the racism he endured at Yorkshire was "without a shadow of doubt" replicated across the country.

Rafiq said constant racist abuse under Yorkshire captain Ballance, vice-captain Bresnan, head coach Andrew Gale and Moxon resulted in suicidal thoughts.

Recalling a night out during a 2017 pre-season tour, Rafiq said: "We were in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes: 'Why are you talking to him? You know he's a P***i'.

"This happened in front of teammates. It happened in front of coaching staff."

Rafiq said Ballance's use of 'Kevin' as a blanket derogatory term for all people of colour was "an open secret in the England dressing room" and Hales called his dog 'Kevin' because it was black.

"It's disgusting how much of a joke it was," Rafiq said.

Rafiq said former Yorkshire bowler Hoggard often referred to him as "Raffa the Kaffir".

He also restated an existing allegation against Vaughan, which the former England captain stronly denies.

Rafiq said that Root, a Yorkshire player, was a "good man" who "never engaged in racist language" but that the England captain being unable to remember hearing racist language "shows how normal it was, that even a good man like him doesn't see it for what it was."

with AP and PA.

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