New Zealand captain Kane Williamson hopes there will be a ‘healing’ in his former Yorkshire side on the eve of a third Test against England who were nearly moved from the county seat of Headingley due to a racist argument. Pakistani-born former off-spinner Azeem Rafiq first raised allegations of racism and bullying in September 2020, linked to his two spells in Yorkshire. Rafiq gave evidence to a parliamentary committee last year, causing growing pressure on Yorkshire over his earlier failure to take disciplinary action.
This eventually led to a mass elimination of board personalities and senior staff.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have also threatened to pull Headingley’s lucrative internationals unless changes are made.
Reforms promoted by new chairman Kamlesh Patel have averted what could have been a financial disaster for Yorkshire.
But the matter is far from resolved, with ECB disciplinary charges brought against the club and “a number of individuals”, whom officials have yet to name.
Last month, former Yorkshire manager Andrew Gale won an unfair dismissal claim, leaving the club facing the prospect of paying compensation.
Williamson, who played for Yorkshire as an overseas signing from 2014 to 2018, was evasive when asked if he had witnessed any specific incidents of racist abuse during his time at the club.
But the drummer said he hoped good would come from Rafiq’s testimony.
“It’s incredibly sad to see what happened,” Williamson said. “I can only hope that something positive will come out of it and the awareness it has created to move forward in a positive way.
“There is no place for racism or discrimination in sport or society. I was here for a few short breaks and enjoyed my time in Yorkshire.
“Some issues have come to light more recently and you can only hope there will be a cure.
“There has been a huge awareness around the world, efforts to continue that awareness and make it a more inclusive place, whether in sports or other places of work.
Asked about the issue of racism, England captain Ben Stokes said his side understood they had “a responsibility on the pitch, as well as off the pitch”.
Stokes’ men will be aiming to sweep the three-Test series, having won the previous two games by five wickets, when the clash begins in Leeds on Thursday.
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