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England Test captain Joe Root has reiterated he did not witness racism at Yorkshire and has confirmed he has been in touch with Azeem Rafiq and plans to meet with him when he is back in the United Kingdom.
Root first made the claim in a statement released on 11 November while stating “it’s clear things happened” at the county. This was then put to Rafiq during a DCMS committee meeting on 16 November who, while making it clear Root did not engage in racist language, said he found Root’s comments “hurtful”.
“He was not only Gary’s [Ballance] housemate but before he started playing for England, he was involved in a lot of them socialising nights out where I’d been called a p***,” Rafiq said.
Speaking in Brisbane, Australia, where England are preparing for the Ashes, which begins next week on 8 December, Root stood by his words.
“I don’t recall those incidences,” he said. “If they are an oversight on my part then that’s an area that we all have to learn from, and I have to learn from. There have been other things that have happened since then, on the cricket field, where I feel like I have stepped in and called things out. That comes from growth and learning and understanding and education.
“I can only call upon my own personal experiences and what I can recall. But clearly there are things that have happened, especially at Yorkshire, which are unacceptable and we have to be better, we have to learn from.
“The most important thing from now is we can’t change the past but we can make sure, moving forwards that we shape the future, and we do everything we can to make all of the dressing rooms within cricket – professional, international, club cricket – we make them as inclusive as we possibly can and make sure no one is treated differently.”
Root was considerably less committal when asked about the accusation that players within the England dressing room used the name “Kevin” to refer to anyone of colour. Rafiq said the term was derogatory and was introduced to the England team by Ballance and that Alex Hales had named his black dog “Kevin” as a result. Hales denies this and said his dog was named after the Scottish comedian, Kevin Bridges.
The ECB are currently investigating the claims that form part of a broader look at dressing room culture throughout cricket.
“I’m currently not able to discuss matters on that because of that investigation,” said Root. “But clearly that is a phrase that should never be used whether in the dressing room or any part of society. As I mentioned, I can’t go into that specifically.”
The squad is split between those currently in Brisbane, such as Root, and England players who played in the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates currently finishing a 14-day quarantine on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Both groups will finally get together on Tuesday and are likely continue the conversations they have had on the racism scandal unfolding at home ahead of the first Ashes Test.
“There have been some very good conversations had,” said Root. “I can only speak most recently, in the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk around this group. We’ve spent a lot of time with one another talking about this and it’s not an easy subject. It’s very uncomfortable.
“It’s horrible to hear some of the stories around cricket and experiences people have lived through. We want to find ways of eradicating that and bettering it and it’s something that as a group we’ve thought about how can we offer more.”