NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) aspires to be a “beacon of hope” for diversity in English cricket, its chairman Kamlesh Patel told Reuters on Tuesday.
The club was rocked by a racism scandal last year after Azeem Rafiq, a former England under-19 captain of Pakistani descent, alleged that he had been a victim of institutional racism at Yorkshire.
Rafiq’s explosive testimonial before a British parliamentary committee led to a series of resignations and Patel was tasked with the job of helping the club navigate the crisis.
“We learned from those mistakes,” Patel, who is in Mumbai to finalise YCCC’s tie-up with an Indian company, said in a Zoom interview.
“We put structures in place to ensure that we once again become the beating heart of Yorkshire cricket and also be a beacon of hope…for equity, diversity and inclusion.”
Yorkshire was barred from staging international matches but the ban was lifted after its members voted last week in favour of governance reforms.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity where an iconic institution that’s 160 years old has the ability to suddenly have a massive heart attack but recover well and recover better than it was before,” Patel said.
He likened the job to rebuilding a city after a devastating earthquake.
“You can either rebuild the city as it was before, or you can build a smart city that’s very different, and I think we chose the latter.”
Yorkshire has partnered Pakistan’s Lahore Qalandars and South African franchise Momentum Multiply Titans to source talents from diverse communities.
Now an Indian company will have its brand presence on the main pavilion at Headingley Stadium and the kits of the Yorkshire women’s team after YCCC’s two-year deal with Clean Slate.
Former England test bowler Darren Gough, who was appointed Yorkshire’s interim managing director in December, is determined to help his former club root out racism.
“To come back to Yorkshire… and try and turn it around and make us even better than we’ve ever been and set an example to the rest of the world in sport is an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” the 51-year-old said.
Derbyshire all-rounder Anuj Dal feels Rafiq’s testimonial had made life easier for cricketers like him.
“What Azeem showed in his testimony was that the South Asian players, and players from different backgrounds, now feel as though they’ve got someone there who’s spoken out about issues that are there within the game,” Dal told BBC Sport.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Pritha Sarkar)