Azeem Rafiq hopes telling his experience of racism could open the “floodgates” for others to follow suit as the fall-out from his appearance at a parliamentary hearing continues.
Rafiq rocked the sport at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday, when he outlined in disturbing detail his own account of racial harassment and discrimination.
Between that and a newly published employment tribunal witness statement he made several fresh allegations against high-profile individuals, including ex-England players Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard and Alex Hales, and expects the spotlight he has attracted to encourage others to speak up in their droves.
The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) chair Cindy Butts said on Wednesday that over 1,000 people have already come forward since it called for evidence last week.
Rafiq told Sky Sports News: “I think you’re going to get it into the hundreds and thousands, possibly. I do feel it’s going to be a little bit of ‘floodgates’ and a lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward.”
A number of individuals have told their own stories through the media, including former Essex players Zoheb Sharif and Maurice Chambers in recent days, while a host of less public forums are now available.
As well as the ICEC, Yorkshire have set up a whistleblower hotline while there is a joint reporting service initiated by the England and Wales Cricket Board and Professional Cricketers’ Association.
Former White Rose spinner Rafiq, who battled tears as he told MPs how he fought depression and thoughts of suicide, said he felt an element of “closure” after his appearance, but the same may not be true for those he has accused.
Bresnan took to Twitter following the DCMS committee hearing to “apologise unreservedly” for “any part I played in contributing to Azeem Rafiq’s experience of being bullied” but stressed the accusation he frequently made racist comments was “absolutely not true”.
His current club, county champions Warwickshire, have vowed to take the claims seriously and chair Mark McCafferty says he will seek discussions with Rafiq “at the earliest opportunity” to explore the matter before taking Bresnan’s account.
Rafiq had accused Hales of calling his black dog ‘Kevin’ due to Ballance’s use of the name as a derogatory term for people of colour, but the Nottinghamshire batter, whose club have started an internal process, has refuted that, saying in a statement to the PA news agency: “I categorically and absolutely deny there was any racial connotation in the naming of my dog.”
Somerset have also launched an investigation regarding allegations made against bowler Jack Brooks.
Rafiq claimed that Brooks, a two-time County Championship winner at Yorkshire, had started the disrespectful practice of calling India star Cheteshwar Pujara “Steve” during an overseas stint at the club, while some tweets appearing to show Brooks using racist language in 2012 have also surfaced.
Brooks told the Daily Mail on Thursday that he had apologised to Pujara, saying: “I admit to having used it (Steve) in this context and now accept that it was disrespectful and wrong to do so. I have reached out and apologised to Cheteshwar for any offence that I have caused him or his family.
“At the time I didn’t recognise this as racist behaviour, but I can now see that it was not acceptable.”
Brooks also said the social media posts in question were to friends but added: “I condemn discrimination of any sort and I should never have used discriminatory language, no matter what the intention and context was. I wholeheartedly apologise for any offence caused.”
Rafiq’s witness statement saw ex-Yorkshire captain David Byas, who left Headingley before Rafiq’s debut in 2008, accused of past racist behaviour but the latter told PA: “I deny emphatically that I have used the phrases attributed to me”.
Wednesday saw no official word from Yorkshire, but Rafiq renewed calls for the departures of Andrew Gale, who is currently suspended as head coach pending investigation over an historic tweet, and director of cricket Martyn Moxon, who is signed off work with a stress-related illness.
“I don’t think Martyn and Andrew can (continue),” Rafiq told Sky. “I don’t think it’s possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them in there, with them knowing full well what role they played in that institution.”
Neither man took up the chance to give their own evidence in Westminster, with Rafiq concluding: “They had an opportunity (on Tuesday) to come down here under parliamentary privilege to get their side of the story across and they didn’t.”