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Azeem Rafiq claims he was ‘on brink of suicide’ due to racism at Yorkshire

ISLAMABAD: Former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq has claimed his experiences of racism at Yorkshire left him on the brink of suicide.

“I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire,” he said in an interview with the cricket website ESPNcricinfo.

“I was living my family’s dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day.

“There were times I did things to try and fit in that, as a Muslim, I now look back on and regret. I’m not proud of it at all.

“But as soon as I stopped trying to fit in, I was an outsider. There were no coaches on the staff from a similar background who understood what it was like,” the 29-year-old Rafiq said.

However, Rafiq is sceptical as to whether meaningful change will happen following his experiences.

“Yorkshire don’t want to listen and they don’t want to change,” said Rafiq, who no longer plays professionally.

“And part of the reason for that is the people who were involved in the incidents I’m talking about are still at the club. They just want to sweep it under the carpet.

“But not this time. Not again. I know what I’m doing here. I know that by speaking out I’m damaging my chances of working in the game again.

“But I also know it’s the right thing to do and if I have to stand alone to do it, I will.”

Meanwhile, in a statement issued chairman Roger Hutton said Yorkshire would be carrying out a “wider review” of their “policies and culture”, as well as investigating Rafiq’s allegations.

“We are in the process of finalising the structure of this investigation and we will be approaching impartial external parties to be part of the review to ensure complete transparency,” Hutton was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.

“We fully acknowledge that just as in many walks of life, sport, including cricket and Yorkshire as a club, must do better to fully promote a culture of zero tolerance to racism or any form of prejudice.

“We accepted a long time ago that change was needed at Headingley to improve diversity, especially in terms of racial inclusivity.

“We have tried to make contact with Azeem this week to discuss his experiences, and will make further contact in the weeks ahead as it’s important that we hear his grievances in as much detail as possible,” he added.

Speaking before the start of England’s T20 series against Australia on Friday, England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan said he was “surprised” to hear of Rafiq’s claims.

“When I hear these stories I’m surprised to start with,” said Morgan.

“But also in light of these stories coming out the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) has been active in trying to rectify and become more diverse and create equal opportunity for everybody.

“Given the squad of players we have and the guys of different cultures, backgrounds, different races, the diverse nature of it really does epitomise where English cricket is at,” he maintained.

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.