English cricket must ban berth and follow South Africa’s lead | Locust

So the sun is rising on another good day to be white, straight and privileged in cricket in the UK. We’ve had an on-going streak of these stretches back and forth, oh let me lick my flingers and flip the calendar, about 200 years now. The latter, the 73,049th according to that number, is a little more difficult than some of the others, maybe some people feel a little sore when they settle behind their desks, a little tender when they walk towards the locker room, the gym or the nets. . But if the experience tells you anything, it’s that they’ll all be comfortable again soon enough. Heck, the first Ashes Test starts in three weeks. There are warm-up matches to look forward to.

What did MP Steve Brine say on Tuesday, just as Azeem Rafiq had just finished saying he didn’t want his own son to approach cricket? “In conclusion, by how much will we earn the Ashes? Thanks for coming back to what’s important, Steve, Rafiq’s testimony really needed a little relief.

Which part has you the hardest? The moment a teammate pinned him to the ground and forced him to drink red wine while everyone was silent? The one where the beloved old fast bowler called him “Raffa le Cafre” and “elephant washer”? The song where a revered England captain bluntly contradicted his testimony, supported by two of Rafiq’s teammates, that he told him “there are too many of you”? Or was it when he argued that the reason his teammates didn’t remember the racist behavior in Yorkshire was because it was so normal that he became forgettable? Or when he said he felt the players union called the police on him just so they could have proof that they had tried to do something useful if he had committed suicide?

This horror that you feel, the chill, the nausea, the pain, all this discomfort and discomfort, don’t turn away from it. It is necessary. Without it, nothing will change.

Last week I wrote about how the game we have seen in the media for the past few weeks was both infamously familiar and yet totally unrecognizable to the game being played there, in which a multicultural team of England won the World Cup, and a third of recreational players are of Anglo-Asian descent.

And this week, Rafiq’s testimony leaves a similar feeling. The extreme discrimination he faced was surprising, but there was something sadly familiar about what he said about the culture of the game and how good people let bad behavior go. The Guardian published an interview on the matter with the England and Wales Cricket Board’s chief executive of women’s cricket last month. This culture is one of the reasons there is only one Anglo-Asian player in the books in Yorkshire, one of the reasons there is only one openly gay male player in the books. professional cricket, one of the reasons just about every woman working in the press gallery has its own. private history of harassment.

Azeem Rafiq has faced surprising discrimination throughout his cricket career. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images

You can see it in Yorkshire, see it at the ECB, and maybe you can see it in your own experiences too, in this talented kid who played for your club but fell out of the game because he didn’t. was out of place. or that overheard remark you let out when you were in the crowd. Me, I can see it in the second hand truths that I knew about some of the great old players but left out when writing tributes to them. The game always comes back to its comfort. Rafiq gave English cricket a chance to deal with this. This opportunity cost him his health and his career. Now, it’s up to everyone involved in the game to make the most of it.

What next? The ECB is organizing an “all-cricket meeting” to discuss it on Friday. Is it just dumber and after the last 25 years is there enough evidence that the ECB can be trusted to solve this problem?

But there is a model we can follow. Over the past year, Cricket South Africa has held “Social Justice and Nation-building Hearings” to determine the causes, nature and extent of racial discrimination in their game. Hearings are supervised by an independent mediator and posted on YouTube. English cricket needs something similar. As Rafiq said, “There is a rush to move forward, I think before moving forward the game has to listen to a lot of people who have suffered a lot of abuse across the board. country.”

The ECB and Yorkshire have set up hotlines for people to report their experiences. What do you trust them to do with the information they collect privately? Who, exactly, do you want them to protect once they have it?

Rafiq’s testimony showed the power of having these conversations in public. And it has to be a conversation. Everyone involved in the SJN hearings is given a notice and an opportunity to respond. This process only works if we also hear from people who have failed. Not in the form of brief apologies signed by lawyers or statements of outright denial, but as part of a real public debate in which people are free to apologize where they need to, without feeling like that they are going to be sentenced for life.

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We also need to hear from all the people I spoke about last week, those who are there every day, working to improve the game, about the obstacles that stand in their way. And we need, as Rafiq says, to stay focused on the system rather than being distracted by back and forth between individuals.

Because it’s not another crop war episode, but a tough conversation about what needs to be done; at the end, a good start. And what’s depressing is, can we be sure this will all happen? Now, about these ashes …

About Mitchel McMillan

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