Azeem Rafiq's 'inhuman' treatment at Yorkshire after death of baby

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·Sports Editor
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Azeem Rafiq, pictured here at a parliamentary inquiry.
Azeem Rafiq broke down as he detailed the 'inhuman' treatment after the death of his baby. Image: AAP/Instagram

Cricketer Azeem Rafiq has delivered an emotional and explosive account of his experiences of racism at Yorkshire in front of a Parliamentary committee, with a series of new and shocking allegations that implicate a handful of high-profile former England players.

During a lengthy appearance in front of MPs on Tuesday, Rafiq offered up a damning and damaging account of his life in the English game before the publication of a written statement escalated matters even further.

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Over the course of bombshell day for the sport in England, ex-international players Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, Alex Hales and Gary Ballance were all subject to fresh claims of racial discrimination that paint a torrid picture of how Rafiq's dream career turned into a battle against depression.

Rafiq said the only time he was not routinely mistreated during a decade at Yorkshire was when Australian Jason Gillespie was head coach.

The 30-year-old broke down in tears as he detailed the “inhuman” treatment he suffered, claiming a senior club official even “ripped the shreds” off him just one day after he was informed of the death of his baby.

Rafiq’s son was stillborn in 2017, but he told the committee that instead of showing him compassion the club’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon verbally abused him.

“The first day back after losing my son, Moxon literally got me in a room and ripped the shreds off me,” he claimed. 

“I’ve never seen him speak to anyone like that at the club.

“Some of the club officials were inhuman. They weren’t really bothered about the fact that I was at training one day and I got a phone call to say there’s no heartbeat.”

Azeem and wife Faryal Zaheer later welcomed a baby boy in 2019.

“What an incredible few days for us after arguably the toughest 2 years of our life," he wrote on Instagram at the time.

"Throughout my wife has been unreal, she’s been incredibly strong.

“Our parents, brothers & sisters thank you so much for keeping us going through some very tough days. 

"Also to everyone that has supported us & been there for us thank you from us all. Looking forward to being the best possible parents to our little boy.”

Azeem Rafiq's explosive allegations against Yorkshire cricket

In his published witness statement from a now-settled employment tribunal with Yorkshire, Rafiq said that Bresnan's treatment of him led to "suicidal thoughts" in 2017, with a later apology from Bresnan described by Rafiq as "lip service".

Elsewhere he restated an existing allegation against Michael Vaughan, which the former England captain denies, and excoriating complaints against Moxon and head coach Andrew Gale.

Rafiq's attempts to raise allegations internally at the county fell on deaf ears more than three years ago, but an independent panel was eventually commissioned in 2020 following a series of media interviews. 

Its report has been roundly criticised by those who have seen it, not least as Yorkshire concluded no staff members should face disciplinary action.

Rafiq said he wished to become "the voice of the voiceless" as he reflected on cricket's wider problems around race, making it clear that he felt the shortcomings go right to the very top.

As well as going into disturbing details of his time at Headingley, the 30-year-old claimed Ballance's derogatory use of the term 'Kevin' as a blanket term for all people of colour was "an open secret in the England dressing room". 

Azeem Rafiq, pictured here in action for Yorkshire ain 2017.
Azeem Rafiq in action for Yorkshire ain 2017. (Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images)

He further alleged that another former England batter, Hales, had named his dog Kevin because it was black.

Ballance has previously admitted using a "racial slur" against Rafiq over the course of a deep friendship but the latter rejected that assertion. 

Instead he says Ballance coined the unwanted and offensive nickname "Raffa the kaffir" and would "constantly talk down to me and make racist jokes, designed to undermine me and make me feel small". 

Examples involved references to corner shops, Sheikhs and being related to other Asian men.

Ballance is accused of repeatedly calling Rafiq 'P***', an allegation that is also levelled individually at Hoggard, Bresnan and Gale.

Hoggard is also said to have used the phrase "elephant washer", subjecting Rafiq to such abuse "on a daily basis...all day, every day" and making players of Asian heritage sit together in the changing room. 

During his oral evidence, Rafiq credited Hoggard with reaching out to apologise.

Of England captain Joe Root, Rafiq said: "Rooty is a good man. He never engaged in racist language." 

But he added Root's recent assertion that he could not recall any examples of racism at Yorkshire was 'hurtful' because as Ballance's housemate he "had been involved in a lot of the socialising where I was called a 'P***'. 

"It shows how normal it was that even a good man like him doesn't see it for what it was."

with AAP

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