'Wanted to play for England. I was prepared to do anything': Azeem Rafiq recalls drinking alcohol to fit in at Yorkshire | Crickit
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'Wanted to play for England. I was prepared to do anything': Azeem Rafiq recalls drinking alcohol to fit in at Yorkshire

By | Written by Siddharth Thakur, New Delhi
Jun 16, 2024 04:40 PM IST

Azeem Rafiq admitted that he was disheartened by Joe Root's Yorkshire testimony. Rafiq was 23 when the county side dropped the former skipper.

Being told that whistleblowers never have a successful life after providing information about wrongdoing, Azeem Rafiq is determined to change the narrative. Rafiq's cricket career was the only reason his family opted to stay in the United Kingdom. Raising his stocks at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Rafiq was the captain of the England U-19 teams featuring household names like Joe Root, Ben Stokes, and Jos Buttler. Two years after becoming Yorkshire’s first Asian captain, the then 23-year-old was dropped by the county side.

 Azeem Rafiq recalled some of the worst moments from his playing career in his memoir(Getty Images)
Azeem Rafiq recalled some of the worst moments from his playing career in his memoir(Getty Images)

Talking about the toxic culture in the Yorkshire dressing room, Rafiq, in his memoir - It’s Not Banter, It’s Racism - recalled some of the worst moments from his playing career. Rafiq was subjected to racist treatment after his arrival at Yorkshire. Going by his own admission, Rafiq lost his career to racism. In the book, Rafiq revealed that he started drinking alcohol to fit in, and it contributed to his mental health struggles.

ALSO READ: Yorkshire slapped with heavy points deduction over Azeem Rafique racism scandal

'I just wanted to play for England'

“It’s the one thing I do regret. It wasn’t something I enjoyed … but I had this mad dream. I just wanted to play for England and I was prepared to do anything and everything for it,” he was quoted saying by The Guardian. Because of cricket, the former Yorkshire star ended up living two different lives. "South Asians, but especially Muslims, we have these two different cultures, one at home and one at work,” he mentioned. Pinned down in a car at 15, Rafiq had red wine poured down his throat.

What Rafiq said about Joe Root

Feeling rejected by the sport, Rafiq was disheartened by Root's testimony. The former England skipper claimed that never witnessed racism in Yorkshire. “I think he’s let himself down.” Rafiq's former teammate, Gary Ballance, was charged with using racist language. After struggling with his mental health, he has retired from cricket. “I saw a broken person. And this could have been stopped if more people didn’t just back off and think about themselves. Their silence not only has damaged me but it’s damaged the likes of Gary,” he added.

Know more about Yorkshire's cricket racism scandal

Rafiq's first complaint to the county side arrived seven years ago. Rafiq reached out to former Yorkshire assistant coach, Richard Pyrah, about bullying by Tim Bresnan in 2017. Rafiq decided to take legal action against Yorkshire in 2020. He claimed that he suffered “discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race”. A year later, Yorkshire’s entire coaching team left the club. Rafiq's emotional evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee was termed as an earthquake by England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive - Tom Harrison. Yorkshire and former cricketers Michael Vaughan, Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard, Ballance, Andrew Gale and coaches Pyrah and John Blain were charged by the ECB in June 2022.

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