Cricket braced for more ‘bombshells’ as Azeem Rafiq is ready to reveal all to MPs

Cricket braced for more ‘bombshells’ as Azeem Rafiq is ready to reveal all to MPs
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, Cricket braced for more ‘bombshells’ as Azeem Rafiq is ready to reveal all to MPs,

Azeem Rafiq declared it was “time for truths” ahead of today’s landmark parliamentary session, in which “more bombshells” are expected to rock cricket.

A third ex-England international is among Yorkshire figures fearing they will follow Michael Vaughan and Gary Ballance in being named as among those accused by Rafiq. Sources close to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee declared ahead of the meeting that more major revelations were guaranteed for a sport already in turmoil. “Expect more bombshells,” said one insider last night.

Rafiq, who travelled down to London yesterday ahead of his appearance at Westminster’s Portcullis House, is ready to lay bare his hurt when he is questioned about Joe Root’s claim last week that he never saw any abuse at the club. MPs are keen to get Rafiq’s version of events as both the England Test captain and Ballance, who admits calling Rafiq a “P” as “banter”, were previously his housemates. Vaughan strenuously denies referring to Rafiq and three other Asian players as “you lot” in 2009. Ballance admits calling Rafiq a “P—“, but claims he did not realise the term was causing offence.

With no current Yorkshire employees due to give evidence, Roger Hutton, who resigned as chairman ten days’ ago, will be the only figure forced to answer directly to the charge that the club is institutionally racist. As a result, it is the England and Wales Cricket Board that is braced to face the fiercest attacks head on, especially after ministers questioned last week whether the governing body was still “fit for purpose”. Tom Harrison, the ECB’s CEO, and Barry O’Brien, interim chair, will be quizzed at length over the body’s perceived failures to intervene in historic racism at Yorkshire and at other clubs, such as Essex.

The select committee, led by chairman Julian Knight MP, is attempting to establish evidence that extends beyond the 100-page report which outlines investigations into Rafiq’s dossier of claims. It is understood allegations raised by other players are likely to be explored, including one that non-white players were known as “Steve” as part of a pejorative in-joke between players.  Telegraph Sport revealed last week how Ballance is accused of calling people of colour “Kevins”. However, other Asian players have previously alleged they were called “Steve” at Yorkshire, with team-mates joking their real names were too difficult to pronounce.

Rafiq, the former off spinner who first raised allegations internally in 2018,  is understood to have told friends he is willing to name those he accused, but only if MPs ask him to.

Evidence is protected by parliamentary privilege, meaning he is free to outline his experiences during two spells at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018 without fear of legal reprisal. The 30-year-old, who last week settled his employment case with Yorkshire and received a six-figure payout, yesterday posted on social media in reference to the hearing: “Time for truths.”

MPs may well express their dismay over a poor turnout from Yorkshire, however, with only Hutton, the chair who resigned 10 days ago, on the official list with 24 hours left. The absence of Mark Arthur, the chief executive who quit last week, and Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket, is a blow to the committee, given they face fierce criticism in the unreleased report for their inaction. Moxon has been signed off with stress and cannot be called, while Arthur pulled out at the 11th hour after resigning from the club.  Wayne Morton, the club’s director of medical services, had been listed on the call for evidence, but has said that he does not want to appear.

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