England spinner Adil Rashid felt pressured by Azeem Rafiq to back racism claims he does not remember, according to a senior figure in Yorkshire.
The allegation is in a signed witness statement given to the ECB to aid their disciplinary case against Michael Vaughan, who along with six former Yorkshire players has been charged with using racist language towards Rafiq. Rafiq declined to comment but is understood to strongly deny putting pressure on Rashid.
Rashid and Rafiq played together for two spells in Yorkshire before going into business last year by opening a fish and chip shop in Barnsley, which was recently sold.
Adil Rashid gave a written statement supporting Azeem Rafiq’s version of events
Rashid is expected to appear as a key witness when the long-running case is heard by the Cricket Discipline Commission next year, but Sportsmail can reveal he is unlikely to appear in person. However, earlier this year he gave a written statement to the ECB supporting Rafiq’s version of events.
Rafiq first made allegations of being racially abused on the field by a former Yorkshire team-mate in an interview with Wisden.com in August 2020, with Vaughan admitting he was the alleged perpetrator in November 2021. That led to a ECB investigation and former England captain charged last summer.
As part of their investigation, the ECB received a written statement from a senior member of staff at Yorkshire, who said that throughout 2020 and 2021 they were in frequent contact with Rashid. ‘When the media furore was at its peak, Mr Rashid called me on more than one occasion,’ the witness said.
Rashid and Rafiq played together for two spells in Yorkshire before going into business last year
‘He showed distress and indicated to me that he was being forced to prove the allegations of racism, even though he did not want to.
‘He told me, more than once, that he could not remember the particular comment he was asked to say he witnessed, or anything racist being said in his presence. He told me that he said to Mr Rafiq, “No matter how many times you tell me I heard it Azeem, I don’t remember hearing it”. Mr Rashid’s voluntary comments in the telephone calls he chose to make to me are contrary to statements I have seen in the media, attributed to him, regarding racist comments observed or heard.’
The witness does not say that he personally witnessed Rafiq forcing Rashid, and Rashid does not corroborate the account in the witness statement. Rashid also declined to comment when contacted by Sportsmail.
The allegations against Vaughan center around claims the former England captain said, ‘There are too many of you, we need to have a word about it’, to a group of four Asian players before a T20 match in between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire in 2009.
Michael Vaughan (above) and five former Yorkshire players face allegations of racism
In an interview published in April 2021, former England fast bowler Ajmal Shahzad said he did not remember the comments made.
Vaughan revealed that he was the player accused of making the statements, which he vehemently denied, in his Daily Telegraph column on November 4, 2021. The following day former Pakistan fast bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was gave interviews supporting Rafiq’s version of events, although the specific words attributed to Vaughan have changed slightly.
‘Mr Vaughan used the words, “There are too many of you, we have to do something about it”,’ Naved said. ‘At the time I didn’t know he was talking about us but many people told me that.’
Rashid maintained his silence until November 15 when he issued a statement to The Cricketer. ‘Racism is a cancer in all walks of life and unfortunately in professional sports, too, and it is something that, of course, has to be thrown out,’ he said.
The long-running case is expected to be heard by the Cricket Discipline Commission next year
‘I want to concentrate as much as possible on my cricket and avoid distractions at the expense of the (England) team, but I can confirm Azeem Rafiq’s recollection of Michael Vaughan’s comments to a group of our Asian players .’
The England leg spinner’s statement was given to journalist George Dobell, who described himself as Rafiq’s friend and has supported him since interviewing him in September 2020. At a DCMS Committee hearing last week, Dobell accused Yorkshire Post giving a ‘voice for the racist’ in their coverage of the Rafiq affair.
The ECB is due to hear the case next March, two and a half years since Rafiq first made his claims, although whether the hearing will take place is still unclear.
Rafiq threatened not to appear unless the trial was in public, which led to a preliminary hearing in November where the CDC ruled that an open hearing was allowed. Several defendants have appealed against that conviction, with the CDC yet to make a final decision.