Just Not Cricket


The decision by the BBC to relieve Michael Vaughan of his commentary duties with Test Match Special for the upcoming Ashes series for something he might or might not have said over a decade ago should have us all worried. The speed at which he was ousted is symptomatic of the corporation’s passive acquiescence to identity politics. 

Vaughan, the former England batsman who captained the side during the legendary 2005 Ashes win over Australia, has been accused of making a racially insensitive remark by former county team mate Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq, who is of Pakistani heritage, alleges that Vaughan once referred to a group of Asian cricketers as “you lot” – a claim the former England captain categorically denies.

The comment is said to have been made during a T20 match in 2009 when Yorkshire played Nottinghamshire. Rafiq named Vaughan when he presented a 57-page witness statement during a parliamentary committee.

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, a visibly emotional Rafiq told M.P’s about the abuse he experienced while a player at Yorkshire. In a two-hour testimony he stated that “inhuman” racist abuse cost him his career. In a damning indictment on the culture of English cricket, Rafiq claimed the sport was “institutionally racist.” 

Rafiq did indeed have a promising career as a cricketer. Born in Karachi, he moved to England aged 10 and played for Barnsley Cricket Club. A talented young spin bowler he joined Yorkshire in 2008, He was able to do so because the club had scrapped their unwritten rule that you had to be born within the county boundaries to play for Yorkshire. 

The question has to be asked – if the Leeds-based club was a hotbed of racial animosity, why did he twice re-sign for the county? If the sport is – as Rafiq claims – institutionally racist, how did he become the youngest captain in the club’s 158 year history? If the system was truly against him, he wouldn’t have been awarded academy player of the year in his first year at the club. 

The allegation has sent shockwaves throughout the cricketing world. With other players and staff implicated – chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur have both resigned – we could be witnessing the birth of cricket’s first #MeToo moment. 

Proving that woke-capitalism is alive and well, in response numerous corporations and brands have cut ties with the club. In what can only be described as a staggering lack of self-awareness, Nike are no longer supplying kit for Yorkshire cricket club. Sponsors including Yorkshire Tea and Tetley Bitter have terminated their contracts with Headingley cricket club.  

I would like to remind everyone that, as of writing this is still nothing more than an accusation. 

As with the #MeToo movement, a reliable witness is crucial if you’re going to get answers. A collection of anti-Semitic posts made by Rafiq on Facebook recently came to light. Despite having posted them two years after the alleged incident involving Vaughan, he claims to have no recollection of the posts. 

As a staunch advocate of free speech I can’t say I approve of offence archaeology, It’s what led to another cricketer Ollie Robinson temporarily losing his place in the England side. And more recently Yorkshire’s head coach Andrew Gale, was given the sack for a tweet he sent in 2010. We need to put a stop to all this dirt-digging – we can’t be held responsible for something we said over a decade ago. 

I passionately believe in the right for all these individuals – including Rafiq – to say what they like. The reason I mention Rafiq’s Facebook messages is purely to highlight the moral inconsistency in his argument. If Vaughan must go, then so must Rafiq.  

None of this is to suggest Rafiq did not suffer racist abuse while he was a cricketer. During his select committee testimony he described how Asian players were regularly called P*** and routinely told to sit near the toilets. In one situation he was pinned down and forced to drink alcohol – strictly forbidden for Muslims.

Alas, those in charge have other less-than-important ideas. Instead of addressing real problems like racism, we are discussing whether we should adopt gender-neutral terms for batsmen. A far better solution would be to look into ways of making the game more appealing to people from minority backgrounds. All this allegation will do is push aspiring young cricketers of black and asian origin away from the game. 

The way the BBC has treated Vaughan is nothing short of disgraceful. In their rush to judgment they’ve sent Vaughan a clear message – that message appears to be guilty until proven innocent.

It goes without saying that we need to take every claim of racism seriously. But we must separate real issues of racism from those based on hearsay, rumour and conjecture. 

Because if you really do plan on destroying a man’s life and career, you need conclusive proof. 

Noel Yaxley is a writer based in Nelson’s county. After graduating in politics, he turned his attention to writing. Noel is primarily interested in covering issues around free speech and the latest lunacy in the culture wars. He writes regularly for The Critic magazine and contributes to a number of other outlets such as Reaction and Areo magazine.