No explanation for ‘discrepancy’ over Michael Vaughan comment – Azeem Rafiq

Azeem Rafiq arrives for the second day of the CDC panel hearing into allegations of racism at Yorkshire (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Azeem Rafiq arrives for the second day of the CDC panel hearing into allegations of racism at Yorkshire (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Azeem Rafiq admits he cannot explain the discrepancy between his two versions of Michael Vaughan’s alleged racist comment towards him.

Rafiq had told Yorkshire’s enquiry into the racism scandal at the club in 2021 that former England captain Vaughan had said to Rafiq and three other Asian players before a match: “There’s too many of you lot, we need to do something about it.”

But during day two of the public Cricket Discipline Commission in London, Vaughan’s lawyer referenced an interview with Wisden in which Rafiq’s recollection of the alleged comment was: “There’s too many of you lot, we need to have a word about that.”

Rafiq said the second version is the one he remembers, and added: “In terms of the statement, there was a clear mistake and I take full responsibility.

“I want to emphasise it is very clear on ‘too many of you lot’ which is the discriminatory part against a group of Asian players. The second part is an action. Clearly there is a discrepancy.”

Asked why there was a discrepancy by Christopher Stoner KC, Rafiq replied: “I have no explanation at all.”

Stoner’s cross-examination of both Rafiq and former Yorkshire team-mate Adil Rashid centred around the wording of the comment and the memories both men have of a T20 match between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire which took place almost 14 years ago.

While he could not remember the result of the match at Trent Bridge on June 22, 2009, Rashid – speaking on a video link from England’s tour of Bangladesh – did recall: “As soon as the huddle broke off, people were going towards their places, that is when I remember it being said.

“I have a very clear recollection actually. I think you already know the words. ‘There’s too many of you lot’.

“’There’s too many of you lot, you need to have a word, you need to do something about it’. It is the phrase ‘there’s too many of you lot’.”

Rashid stated he was not offended by Vaughan’s alleged comments but took them as “bad humour”.

Neither Rafiq nor Rashid could remember where Vaughan or any of the other players were standing during the pre-match huddle.

Asked how he knew it was Vaughan who made the alleged comment, Rafiq said: “Michael’s voice. I know what his voice is like.”

Vaughan was charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board over the allegation he made the comment towards Rafiq, Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. The 48-year-old denies the allegation and will defend himself at the CDC on Friday.

In Rafiq’s witness statement he claimed Shahzad accused him of “blackmailing” Rashid, which he “categorically” denied.

In an interview with the ECB which was read out at the hearing, Rashid’s “close friend” Shahzad – who maintains he had no recollection of the comment Vaughan is alleged to have made – said he thought Rashid was being pressurised.

It was also revealed that Rafiq and Rashid had been business partners after they opened a fish and chip shop together in October 2021, which closed a year later.

But Rashid insisted: “No, no. I wasn’t pressured by Azeem.”

Stoner found further discrepancies in Rafiq’s statements to Yorkshire’s enquiry and what he told a parliamentary committee in 2021 regarding the term “elephant washer”.

Rafiq, Stoner said, had heard Rashid described as an “elephant washer” at Yorkshire, but had not been called it himself.

However, during the DCMS enquiry he alleged he had.

“There is a mistake there,” Rafiq conceded. “Ultimately it was checked by my wider team, but I should have checked.”

Rafiq was questioned about a meeting with Vaughan in November 2021 at which the Ashes-winning captain had apologised. It was an “apology non-apology”, according to Rashid.

“Michael headed off to Australia and his general chat around all this was relayed back to me,” added Rashid. “I felt like I was being played.

“I got a call from colleagues of his about his general attempts to discredit me while he was in Australia. With my trust as low as it had been I didn’t want to go through any more.”

Rafiq concluded his appearance in front of the CDC panel by insisting he wished he had spoken up about Vaughan’s alleged comments at the time.

Stoner read out a statement by Shahzad during his interview to the ECB that suggested Vaughan could have used the phrase “you lot” to describe a group of English players on the alleged occasion in 2009.

“Again, in a way I wish now I had that courage to have said it at time,” Rafiq said.

“Maybe I wouldn’t be here and carry the mental scars I carry myself. It is difficult. Anyone who has ever done it, spoke out like I have, know how tough it is.

“It is disappointing to read that from Ajmal. If he was here, it might be different. I wish I had spoken up.”

Vaughan is the only former Yorkshire player charged by the ECB to appear at the hearing.

Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, John Blain, Andrew Gale and  Richard Pyrah all withdrew from the process and are having their cases heard in their absence. Gary Ballance admitted a charge related to the use of racially discriminatory language and Yorkshire admitted four charges.