I had this from a friend. It's very-much worth a read to get an idea of the kind of context that non-white cricket players are operating in, and the way that racism acts as a filter from the very beginning:
Back in the day, when powerful individuals and institutions could keep a widely-known and very public embarrassment out of the press, the Yorkshire County Cricket Club had a 'born in Yorkshire' policy that served a very particular purpose.
Back in the day, the industrial conurbations of Yorkshire had a small but very intense league of small cricket clubs that were *not* affiliated with YCCC and the official County League: Yorkshire Mixed-Races Cricket. Or 'Other Races', depending whether you asked about it in Leicester, or Bangalore, or Durban.
Things came to a head when YCCC relaxed the rule so far as to admit people who had been educated in God's Own County, but were not so fortunate as to have been born there...Specifically, to recruit a prominent white cricketer who suffered the grave misfortune of having been born in Lancashire. It was not, at all, an inclusive and progressive gesture: nor was it a widely-applauded one.
I choose not to name any Yorkshiremen who are alleged to have said "E's from bloody Manchester - I'd've rather we 'ad a P***", because one of them was a that-sort-of-uncle of mine, who had done a great deal for my mother and I in very difficult times; and some others were (allegedly) wearing YCCC blazers when they said the very same words in the vicinity of Headingley. Or in Marylebone. Or in pubs off Fleet Street, where they were indeed heard by journalists, who chose not to record and publish such a thing.
Or so I hear. Not that I'd know anyone with relatives in Durban, or any keen cricketers at a mixed-race school in Leicester, half-a-dozen junctions down the motorway from all of that.
Let's just say that Yorkshire County Cricket Club have some History, and some skill in making damn' sure that the history they don't want to talk about stays out of the papers; and, nowadays, off the web.
But... I'm going to come right out and say it: Azeem Rafiq isn't the first to have encountered this, nor can he be first to have spoken out. He is the first to have achieved success and security in his reputation as a cricketer, despite Yorkshire, to such an extent that he can speak out *and be heard*.
You can be sure that a great number of cricketers, and their own personal experiences of this story, have been suppressed by Yorkshire County Cricket Club: and this has been going on for over fifty years.
If you're ever in Leeds, or Bradford, or Sheffield on a Sunday afternoon in Summer, take a wander 'round the local parks and playing fields.
Grassroots cricket in Yorkshire looks *nothing like* the team that steps out onto the hallowed turf of Headingley - not unless you get out into the countryside, and go looking for villages with a parish church and a village green and a cricket field...
...But very few Yorkshire villages look like that - the former colliery villages are more likely to have a pitch, if it isn't a housing estate now - and the vast majority of cricket teams practice in nets in a council sports centre, and play on a council-maintained cricket pitch overlooked by tower blocks: it's a predominantly urban sport, with a small village tradition.
The gulf between First-Class cricket and club cricket does have other sources: indirect racism, if you will, by economic segregation in the schools. Posh schools do Cricket and Rugby: the other sort do Football... And I've seen that first-hand, but I don't quite buy it: the numbers don't add up, and the it's pretty damn' clear that some County youth coaches choose the schools they visit, and the Games Masters or PE teachers they reach out to, just a little bit too carefully.
Our problem, in Leicestershire, was that the feeder schools for the county cricket competitions and the County Youth team were (and still are) from affluent areas; and, disproportionately, the fee-paying schools. But Asian families in Leicester are as much suburban as 'inner-city' now, and you have to be merely good to get noticed by the county coach: not, necessarily, a rare individual with the stellar talent and sheer determination of Azeem Rafiq.
And it isn't all about the schools: cricket clubs, like Rugby clubs, exist as a thriving adult community, and every well-established club has a youth team. Some get a visit from the county coach - especially if they are doing well in the local league - and some do not... But a well-stablished adult sports club with its own pitch, clubhouse, and changing rooms, is a mark of affluence: there's a reason you see more Rugby clubs like that than football clubs, or cricket clubs: so grassroots cricket in the cities is all about council facilities, and being constantly in flux.
Note, also, that participating in field sports for Asian and West Indian adults in England overwhelmingly means cricket, for another reason: it helps that their families are mad cricket fans, but there's a formidable deterrent in the grassroots of Sunday-league football. The pervasive racism there isn't 'just' verbal - as if that isn't damaging enough - it is very, very physical, on and off the pitch.
One more reason to repeat the point: the numbers don't add up, and the disparity between the playing population and the County team is dismaying in many, many places - but it's blatant and disgusting in Yorkshire, and their history is a disgrace to the sport.
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