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Yorkshire charged by ECB over cricket racism row

LONDON: Yorkshire and a “number of individuals” have been charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) following the governing body’s investigation into how the county dealt with racism allegations made by former player Azeem Rafiq. The ECB did not name any of the people involved in a statement issued on Wednesday. The board said the charges arose from alleged breaches of the ECB’s anti-discrimination code as well as rules concerned with the conduct of players and officials.

The governing body added an independent panel of the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) would now hear the cases, expected to take place in September and October. The ECB said it was standard practice for the CDC panel to publish its decisions and written reasons in full. Pakistan-born former off-spinner Rafiq first raised allegations of racism and bullying in September 2020, related to his two spells at Yorkshire.

It was not until a year later that the club finally released a statement saying the retired player had been the victim of “racial harassment and bullying”, upholding seven of his 43 allegations. But the following month the club confirmed nobody would be disciplined, a decision that was greeted with widespread incredulity. Pressure mounted on Yorkshire, leading to a mass clear-out of senior boardroom figures and coaching staff at its Headingley headquarters.

Earlier this month, however, former Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale won a claim for unfair dismissal, leaving the club facing the prospect of paying out huge sums in compensation. The ECB had previously warned Yorkshire it was prepared to remove lucrative England international matches from Headingley unless the club made changes. But those games, including next week’s third Test against New Zealand and a one-day international against South Africa in July, are set to go ahead as scheduled after a package of governance reforms was approved.

Bairstow’s England heroics

Meanwhile, England’s Jonny Bairstow says playing twenty20 cricket in the Indian Premier League has given him the tools he needed to launch his astonishing demolition of New Zealand in the second Test. The Yorkshireman powered England to a five-wicket victory at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, smashing 136 not out from just 92 balls, including 14 fours and seven sixes. In a sustained assault that was reminiscent of a T20 match, Bairstow’s 77-ball century-the second-fastest Test hundred for England-enabled Ben Stokes’s side to race to their target of 299 in just 50 overs.

Bairstow, 32, said arriving for the Test series hot on the heels of his spell with the IPL’s Punjab Kings helped him put New Zealand to the sword. “There was a lot of people that were saying I should not be at the IPL and I should be playing county cricket,” he said. “Yes, people say it would be fantastic if you had four games of red-ball (first-class) cricket under your belt (before a Test series) but, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen with the current scheduling of everything around the world.

“There are elements to it where you are playing against the best in the world at the IPL. Being able to have those gears, to be able to go and switch them up, switch them down, is important.” Bairstow’s Test career was in the balance when he went the whole of 2020 without a single five-day appearance despite remaining an important member of the limited overs set-up.

But he has silenced his critics in recent months, scoring hundreds in Australia and the West Indies before Tuesday’s blaze of glory. “I’m hugely proud of the fact that sometimes when the chips are down, you have to stand up, when you can say backs are against a wall,” Bairstow said. “That might be something that you’re born with, it might be something that you have deep down that springs out of you at those moments. But, for me as a cricketer, that’s something I’m very proud of.”

England’s victory over New Zealand in Nottingham gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series-their first series win since January 2021. Bairstow is one of several players who appear to have responded well to the new regime under captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum. “I’m extremely excited about what vision Ben and Brendon have, the way in which we’re able to go about our cricket, the enjoyment that everyone’s having on the field,” he said. – AFP

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