BRAVE Azeem Rafiq had to fight back the tears as he recalled the ‘inhuman’ treatment of Yorkshire CCC after his unborn child died.
Rafiq and his wife lost their son in 2017, during his second spell at the club.
But speaking about the tragic ordeal to the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, the former all-rounder revealed the response from his bosses in an emotional hearing.
Rafiq provided evidence to MPs after a report concluded he was a victim of ‘racial harassment and bullying’ – however, Yorkshire said they would not discipline anyone.
Yorkshire’s former and current chairmen, Roger Hutton and Lord Patel, and ECB representatives including chief executive Tom Harrison also spoke at the hearing.
Rafiq said: “At the end of 2017, we went through a difficult pregnancy.
“The treatment I received from Yorkshire CCC was inhuman. They were not bothered, they didn’t care when I got a call to say there was no heartbeat.”
Rafiq had to pause to compose himself.
Adding more details about the heartbreaking experience, Rafiq spoke of how Martyn Moxon – the current director of cricket – ‘tore him to shreds’ on his first day back.
He also added he had never heard Moxon speak to anyone like that before.
In response, Rafiq met with his personal development manager, where he ‘cried his eyes out’.
The 30-year-old also said: “Around the loss of my son, the attitude of Andrew Gale [current head coach] was saying I’m making it more than it was.
“After the loss, hardly anyone asked, ‘Are you alright or is your wife alright?’ It was more about, ‘He raised bullying last year let’s get rid of him.’
“I carried my son from the hospital to the graveyard.
“The way I was treated was not right – there was a problem not just at Yorkshire but across the country.
“My wife has struggled and continues to. The last 15 months, my two kids have not really had a dad – all I’ve been worried about is Yorkshire.”
‘ROOTY A GOOD MAN’
England Test captain Joe Root came out in defence of Yorkshire and insisted he has never heard any of the incidents of racism that players such as Rafiq have experienced.
Rafiq was quick to make it clear Root has never racially abused him.
But he did add he was hurt that Root did not recall witnessing any instances of abuse, despite being in attendance on nights out when the language was directed at him.
He said: “Rooty is a good man. He has never engaged in racist language.
“I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary Ballance’s housemate.
“Maybe he didn’t remember it, but it just shows the institution that a good man like him cannot remember those things.”
FORCED TO DRINK WINE
Rafiq was born in Pakistan and moved to Barnsley aged ten.
Five years later, he was forced to drink alcohol for the first time – despite his Muslim faith.
Rafiq added: “My first incident of drinking, I was 15, I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat.
“The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire.
“We were in a car, I have a witness who was there. Frankly, no one did anything.
“I felt like I had to drink to fit in. I regret that massively, but it has no bearing on the things I was called.
“I have been clear from the offset that I wasn’t perfect. There were things I did that I felt I had to do to fit in, and I am not proud of them.
“But that has no relation to racism. I should never, ever have been treated the way I was. When I spoke, I should have been listened to.”
Rafiq raised his first bullying complaint at Yorkshire against Tim Bresnan in 2017.
A month earlier, he said he was labelled as a leader on the field and a potential future Yorkshire captain – but then this switched to being called a ‘troublemaker’ and a ‘problem’.
Asked if believes there is institutional racism in professional cricket in England, Rafiq added: “Yes, I do.
“It’s clear the problem is there. Everyone has known it for a very long time. It’s an open secret. I’ve seen that if you speak out, your life is made hell.
“There’s been denial, briefings, cover-ups, smearing.
“Until 2017, I didn’t really know for what it was. I was in denial.
“I reported it as bullying. For me to believe I was treated in this way because of my colour is difficult to digest.
“Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes, I do.”
Gary’s conduct was so disgusting
Rafiq also spoke in length about Gary Ballance’s comments, repeatedly being called a ‘p***’ by the batter.
Ballance claimed Rafiq was his ‘best mate in cricket’ and that he ‘cared deeply’ for the Karachi-born star.
He was invited to the latter’s wedding in Pakistan, but could not attend.
Rafiq added: “Gary’s conduct was so disgusting I raised it with a shared agent we had.
“We remained team-mates but we never shared the same relationship again.
“I felt isolated, humiliated at times. On tour, Gary Ballance walked over and said: ‘Why you talking to him? He’s not a sheikh he’s not got oil.
“On the coach to London, going past an Asian man with a beard, I was asked if it was my dad. Going past a corner shop, I was asked if my uncle owned it.
“Kevin was something Gary [Ballance] used for people of colour in a derogatory manner. All the time.
“Gary and Alex Hales got very close to each other playing for England but I understand Alex went on to name his dog Kevin because it was black.
“It is disgusting how much of a joke it became.”