As English cricket grapples with the fallout from the scandal, England captain Joe Root said Monday that he stood by his statement that he could not recall any instances of racism at Yorkshire.
Azeem Rafiq, a Pakistan-born former Yorkshire player who made a number of allegations against high-profile figures, has rocked the game in England.
Rafiq described Root’s denial of ever hearing racist language as “hurtful” when he testified to lawmakers earlier this month about abuse he suffered during two spells at the county.
Root, who claimed to have exchanged messages with Rafiq since his testimony, insisted once more on Monday that he had never heard anything suspicious.
“I stand by what I said,” said the Yorkshire player, who is currently leading England’s Ashes preparations in Australia.
“I don’t recall those incidents, and if they were mistakes on my part, then that’s something we all have to learn from, and I have to learn from.”
“I reflect on events that have occurred since then.” Other things have happened on the cricket field where I feel like I’ve stepped in and called things out, and I believe that comes from growth, learning, understanding, and education.”
Root received praise in 2019 for allegedly using homophobic language during a match against the West Indies.
On Friday, the England and Wales Cricket Board unveiled a 12-point action plan to combat discrimination in sport, including a review of dressing-room culture.
Rafiq told MPs that his Yorkshire teammate Gary Ballance’s use of the name “Kevin” as a derogatory term to describe any person of colour was an open secret in the England dressing room.
When asked about the claim during an online press conference, Root responded, “That’s part of a live investigation, and I’m currently not able to discuss matters on that because of that investigation.”
“Obviously, that is a phrase you should never use in any part of society.”
England’s preparations for the Ashes, which begin next week, have been severely hampered, with last week’s three-day practise match being cancelled due to inclement weather.
The tourists have one more game before the first Test begins at Brisbane’s Gabba ground on Tuesday — a four-day warm-up game.
Root admitted that losing time in the middle was frustrating, but that players from England’s Twenty20 World Cup squad were only now reuniting with the rest of the Test squad.
“We always knew that this next phase was going to be the most critical part in terms of doing everything we could collectively — getting tight, getting clear, and using this as best we could to prepare ourselves, and that’s going to be the real test for us,” he said.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve done a lot of brilliant planning about mentally how we can be ready, and what’s going to work on different surfaces and different grounds, and having a really good idea of how we’re going to break down their team.”
England has lost nine of their last ten Tests in Australia, but Root believes his team has a chance to do “something special” in the upcoming five-Test series, which begins on December 8 in Brisbane.
“I know what it’s like to be on the losing end of these series out here, and it’s the dream as an England player to play in Australia and win, that’s the dream, that’s the cherry on top if you like, and we feel we’ve got a brilliant opportunity ahead of us.”