Azeem Rafiq calls for Yorkshire’s ban on hosting games to be lifted

Leeds: Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire player whose claims of facing racism in the club shook England’s domestic cricket systems, has called for the club to be allowed in hosting international cricket matches again. He added that Yorkshire Chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel is making efforts to make the club move in right direction.

In November 2021, Yorkshire were suspended from hosting international or major matches by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for their ‘wholly unacceptable’ handling of the racism claims made by Rafiq. It meant that Headingley’s hosting rights in 2022 of a Test match against New Zealand and an ODI against South Africa were taken away.

“It has been a whirlwind since I appeared in front of MPs almost two months ago, and what Yorkshire and Lord Patel have done to bring change is definitely a step in the right direction. That is why I believe the time is right to say they should be given back the international cricket so vital to their very survival. The people of Yorkshire should be able to watch England in Test and white-ball games at Headingley this summer,” wrote Rafiq in Daily Mail on Wednesday.

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“The last thing I want now are kids in Leeds, Bradford and throughout the county being denied the high-level cricket that could inspire them. Rather than help solve the problems in the game, Yorkshire’s international suspension could end up adding to them,” added Rafiq, a former England U19 captain.

Rafiq also praised the appointment of former England pacer Darren Gough as the director of cricket in Yorkshire. “The right thing includes appointing Darren Gough as director of cricket. It’s no secret we are friends since he was one of my first captains and we have always stayed in touch. I’m encouraged by his involvement, not least because the game needs people like him back directly involved. Goughie will get things done.”

Rafiq signed off by saying that people need to support Yorkshire in their attempt to change things after whatever happened due to the racism scandal. “Change is coming and I’m hopeful and encouraged. We need to show a bit of love and compassion now. We need to all work together. That is the only way we will create an environment that is genuinely welcoming for everyone.”

“I don’t want Yorkshire to disappear from that environment. At first in all this I believed international cricket should be taken away from them. But they have done enough to warrant getting it back, for now at least. I want to see England playing at Headingley this summer. I may even pop down to watch myself.”

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