Azeem Rafiq reveals use of word ‘Steve’ for Cheteshwar Pujara and ‘Kevin’ by Gary Ballance in racist context

Azeem Rafiq on Tuesday (November 16) in the parliamentary select committee hearing revealed how former England batter Gary Ballance used the term ‘Kevin’ in a derogatory manner. MPs heard from former cricketer Azeem Rafiq in the DCMS hearing, about his calls for disciplinary action to be taken by Yorkshire County Cricket Club following its investigation which found he had been subjected to racial harassment and bullying.

Rafiq spoke in detail about one-time Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance. Notably, Ballance admitted using a ‘racial slur’ towards Rafiq in a lengthy statement issued earlier this month, apologising but stating it as part of a long and deep friendship.

But Rafiq told the committee that was not an accurate depiction of their relationship. Asked by chair Julian Knight about the term ‘Kevin’, he said it was an offensive, racist term. “Kevin was a something Gary used to describe anyone of colour in a very derogatory manner. It was an open secret in the England dressing room,” he said. “Anyone who came across Gary would know that was a phrase he would use to describe people of colour.”

Rafiq also alleged former England batter Alex Hales was involved. He said: “Gary and Alex Hales got really close to each other when they played for England together. I wasn’t present in that dressing room, but what I understand (is) that Alex went on to name his dog ‘Kevin’ because it was black. It’s disgusting how much of a joke it was.”

Rafiq also told MPs that Matthew Hoggard had apologised to him for comments made during their time at Yorkshire, and added he was among ‘six or seven’ players to have made a bullying complaint about Tim Bresnan’s alleged behaviour.

Key statements by Azeem Rafiq:

On Racial slur: From early on there was a lot of ‘You lot sit over there near the toilets’. The word ‘Paki’ was used constantly, no one ever stamped it out. All I wanted to do was play cricket.

On racism from teammates: I felt isolated. (Yorkshire batsman Gary) Ballance came over and said: ‘Why are you talking to him, he’s not a Sheikh, he hasn’t got oil’. Going past a corner shop, I was asked if my uncle owned it.

On being forced to drink alcohol aged 15: My first incident of drinking, I was 15, I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat. The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire.

On the use of ‘Steve’ and ‘kevin’ for Asian origin players: Everyone called India’s Cheteshwar Pujara, ‘Steve’, high-profile players around the world, and it shows the institutional failings. ‘Kevin’ was something Gary used for people of colour in a derogatory manner.

On raising complaints: All I wanted was acceptance, an apology, understanding… When I raised the complaints again, it was a complete denial. I was lucky to be supported by certain members of the press but I felt like social media was my voice.

On England Test captain Joe Root: Rooty’s a good man. He has never engaged in racist language. I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary Balance’s housemate. Maybe he didn’t remember it (nights out when racist language was used), but it just shows the institution that a good man like him cannot remember those things.

(with agency inputs)

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Sagar Biswas

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