Michael Vaughan says alleged racist comment ‘simply never happened’

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File photo dated 04-04-2018 of Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, who “categorically” denies making racist comments to former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq, allegations which were supported by Adil Rashid on Monday, telling the PA news agency in a statement that it “simply never happened” and “is the worst thing I have ever experienced”. Issue date: Monday November 15, 2021. (PA Wire)
File photo dated 04-04-2018 of Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, who “categorically” denies making racist comments to former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq, allegations which were supported by Adil Rashid on Monday, telling the PA news agency in a statement that it “simply never happened” and “is the worst thing I have ever experienced”. Issue date: Monday November 15, 2021. (PA Wire)

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has repeated his denial of making racist comments to a group of Yorkshire team-mates, refuting what he calls a “completely false accusation” after England star Adil Rashid supported Azeem Rafiq’s claims.

Vaughan, who remains one of English cricket’s best known figures for his on-field achievements and off-field broadcast career, revealed earlier this month that he featured in a report into Rafiq’s allegations of institutional racism at the county but strongly denied telling four Asian players: “(there’s) too many of your lot, we need to do something about it”.

World Cup-winning leg-spinner Rashid, who was one of those involved in the alleged incident from 2009, broke his silence on the subject on Monday to back up Rafiq’s version of events, following the lead of former Pakistan international Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.

Fresh from helping England to the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup, Rashid told The Cricketer: “I wanted to concentrate as much as possible on my cricket and to avoid distractions to the detriment of the team but I can confirm Azeem Rafiq’s recollection of Michael Vaughan’s comments to a group of us Asian players.”

That drew a firm response from the latter, who issued a statement through the PA news agency re-stating his own position and outlining his desire not to let his reputation “be trashed unfairly”.

It read: “I categorically deny saying the words attributed to me by Azeem Rafiq and want to re-state this publicly because the ‘you lot’ comment simply never happened.

“It is extremely upsetting that this completely false accusation has been made against me by a former team-mate, apparently supported by two other players.

“I remember the match clearly because it was the first time in Yorkshire’s history that four players of Asian heritage had been selected in the same team.

“It was an important milestone for the county and it was also a moment of pride for me personally. I made a point of shaking all four players’ hands that day because I recognised it was a significant moment.

“Given my view that the inclusion of Asian players in the Yorkshire team was a very positive and welcome development, it is inconceivable I would have made the derogatory comment attributed to me.

“To be confronted with this allegation 11 years after it has supposed to have happened is the worst thing I have ever experienced.”

Vaughan pointed to a passage in his contemporaneous autobiography, during which he wrote that increased representation from the Asian community “ought to be a good thing for our cricket”, as well as television footage from the game that he said showed him “specifically congratulating each of the players concerned”.

Ajmal Shahzad, who became Yorkshire’s first British Asian cricketer in 2004, said he had not heard the comment in question during an interview with PA last year, adding “the senior guys were really good to me, they took me under their wing”.

He was directly namechecked by Vaughan, who also indicated he had received similar responses from the remainder of the playing XI.

“For some time, Ajmal Shahzad has been on record as saying that he never heard me say what has been suggested,” Vaughan said.

“I have been in contact with the six other players from that team and not one of them has any recollection of the remark being made.

“I fully accept that perspectives differ, and I have great sympathy for what Azeem Rafiq has gone through, but I hope everyone understands why I cannot allow this to go unchallenged or my reputation to be trashed unfairly.”

Rashid made his Yorkshire debut 15 years ago and has gone on to win 199 England caps. He made no new allegations against any of those he has played with or for over the years but welcomed recent steps taken to shine a light on the matter, including Tuesday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing.

“Racism is a cancer in all walks of life and unfortunately in professional sports too, and is something which of course has to be stamped out,” he wrote.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that a parliamentary committee seems to be trying to improve the situation, whether that’s holding people accountable or getting changes made at an institutional level.

“These can only be positive developments. I will of course be more than happy to support any official efforts when the time is right.

“For now, though, these matters are of an intensely personal nature and I will not be commenting on them further. I ask you to respect my privacy and allow me to focus on my cricket.”

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