Asian cricketers feel like 'outsiders' in English game: Yorkshire league executive

As the English game grapples with a racism crisis, a top figure in a Yorkshire league told MPs on Tuesday that South Asians felt “like outsiders”, even in grassroots cricket. Last month, former Yorkshire county player Azeem Rafiq delivered horrifying testimony to the same committee of MPs, claiming that the abuse he endured at the club had terminated his career. Other players have also made charges of racism, prompting further investigations at Yorkshire and other country clubs.

The Quaid e Azam Premier Cricket League’s executive finance officer, Adil Mehmood, told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that integration was a challenge. The league’s players are largely from South Asian backgrounds.

“I play in the Bradford League at the grassroots level,” he explained. “You always feel like an outsider, and you never seem to fit in with the squad. This is the team’s and club’s philosophy and culture, and it has been embraced. I’ve played for three different teams and have always felt like an outsider, never feeling like a member of the squad.”

Mehmood also discussed the decrease in Asian players’ representation at the grassroots level compared to the professional level, which has dropped from more than 30% to just 4%. He added that as a 17-year-old, he witnessed a lot of younger, promising Asian players, but that no one had progressed to the county level. He stated, “They were talented enough. I’m not sure what’s going on in the system that they aren’t getting through.” In reaction to the Rafiq affair, the England and Wales Cricket Board created an anti-racism action plan last month. The Professional Cricketers’ Association said it was encouraged by the “healthy culture” in the first-class academies it had visited as part of an inclusive education program.

Former West Indies paceman and anti-discrimination crusader Michael Holding has backed the PCA plan, which will eventually be offered to all 18 first-class academies. “Seeing such a healthy culture in our academies has been overwhelmingly positive and inspiring,” said PCA lead personal development manager Charlie Mulraine. “In supportive environments, there is an understanding that healthy banter is important, but there is also a balance and understanding of where the boundaries are. Recent news stories have highlighted the need for cricket to take a hard look at itself, and education, as we’ve seen from these sessions, is at the heart of that.”