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Yorkshire settle employment tribunal with Azeem Rafiq as Lord Patel takes the helm

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Lord Kamlesh Patel, the incoming chairman of Yorkshire CCC, says that the club has offered an unreserved apology to Azeem Rafiq after settling the ex-player’s long-running employment tribunal, in what he described as the “first vital step” towards becoming “a club which people can trust to do the right thing”.

Speaking at a press conference at Headingley, following his unveiling as Roger Hutton’s successor, Patel praised Rafiq’s courage in blowing the whistle on what he had alleged was a culture of institutional racism and bullying at Yorkshire, and insisted that, after 158 years of existence, the club was “ready to change”.

The tribunal had originally failed to reach a settlement in June this year, when Rafiq declined to sign a non-disclosure agreement in return for a six-figure sum. However, with the player now set to appear before a DCMS select committee hearing on November 16, Patel confirmed that the club has now waived any such demands in concluding the case.

“Absolutely no restrictions have been placed on Azeem on what he can or cannot say about his experiences,” Patel said. “The settlement does not involve a non-disclosure agreement. The club was wrong to have asked Azeem to agree to an NDA in the past, and he rightly refused. And we’ve apologised unreservedly for previously making that demand.

“Our offer means Azeem will be free to speak about his experiences publicly. He is free to answer any questions that are put to him when he wants, and that includes the select committee hearing that’s scheduled for the 16th of November.”

Addressing the settlement, Rafiq said in a statement: “I want to thank Lord Patel for making the offer and sorting this out within 72 hours of his appointment. It should not have taken the rest of the club a year to realise I would not be silenced through an NDA.

“I spoke out because I wanted to create change at the club. I brought a legal claim because the club refused to acknowledge the problem and create change. For the first time that I can remember, I have hope this might happen – but I will be watching and continue to campaign to ensure that it does.”

Addressing the measures already taken since the scale of the crisis became apparent to Yorkshire, Patel added that he had called for an independent whistle-blowing hotline to be set up, to “curate a safe space” for other victims of discrimination to come forward with their experiences.

“We need to listen,” Patel said. “We want anyone who has suffered issues to come forward, and I’ve noticed that some people who have come forward recently appear to felt unable to step forward in Azeem’s case.

“This hotline will provide us with important data as to where specific problems lie so that we can begin to make improvements which are desperately needed. Its independence will allow any of those who felt silenced or intimidated to come forward in a safe place.”

Patel also pledged to commission a specialist independent review of Yorkshire’s processes and procedures on diversity and inclusion – including discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, religion and disability – in the wake of the club’s myriad failings in the Azeem case.

“Our fans, the cricketing world and the wider public need to trust that we are fit for purpose, and we can deal with issues in a fair and a transparent way,” he said. “My aim is to work together with a range of stakeholders to do this, and this will be tied to my future action plan.”

Patel further added that the controversial report into Yorkshire’s racism investigation, which the club had long refused to share beyond a handful of senior employees, had now been passed on to all parties with a legal interest in the case, including Rafiq’s lawyers, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the ECB, and Julian Knight, the chair of the DCMS select committee.

As to the club’s immediate future, Patel acknowledged that the loss of a raft of major sponsors – including Emerald, Nike, Yorkshire Tea and Tetley’s – along with the ECB’s decision to suspend Yorkshire’s major-match status, would create a financial “hiatus”. Trevor Strain, the managing director of Morrisons and an existing board member, has been appointed as the club’s chair of risk and audit.

“I can confirm that I’ve had discussions and meetings with the ECB about the restoration of international cricket,” Patel said. “We will have to demonstrate that we are addressing the root causes of the issues, and that we are leading change before having any concrete conversations on that.

“There’s much more to be done which will become clear to me in the coming days,” he added. “I’m determined to make this club the beating heart of English cricket again. After 158 years, we’re ready to change. We’re ready to accept the past and we’re ready to become a club which people can trust to do the right thing.”



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Tom Harrison believes ‘earthquake’ can accelerate change as ECB unveil plan to tackle racism

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Review of dressing-room culture and game-wide approach to dealing with complaints are among pledges

Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, says that the “earthquake” of revelations surrounding institutional racism in English cricket could prove to be the catalyst for long-overdue change within the sport, as the board on Friday unveiled its five-point action plan in response to the crisis.

The measures outlined include the adoption of a game-wide approach to dealing with complaints of racism, and a full review of dressing-room culture at international and domestic level, as Harrison acknowledged that, with a game-wide fan-base in the region of 11 million people in England and Wales, “we don’t yet have a sport which represents all [communities]” and that “we risk losing these people unless we address this situation urgently”.

“It feels like an earthquake has hit us,” Harrison admitted during his first media briefing since last week’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing in Westminster. Azeem Rafiq’s appearance before the committee followed Yorkshire’s botched handling of a report into his allegations of institutional racism at the club and sparked a number of other players to speak out about abuse they had suffered at other clubs.

“The last few weeks have been very, very tough for cricket,” Harrison said. “Our game has been portrayed in the worst possible way in the world’s media, and testimony from others has revealed serious issues which we’ve collectively not dealt with as a game for many decades, as well as more recently.

“What we’re trying to get to grips with now is it’s a collective response from the game coming together to work out what we’re going to do about this very serious situation that we face. Last Friday was that moment where we came together as a collective, the whole game.

“Frankly, it sometimes takes an earthquake like this to provide the kind of courage that we’ve seen from Azeem Rafiq in particular, but others too,” Harrison added. “It’s provided the opportunity to accelerate years and years of change in a very quick period of time. Perhaps this has been the shock that will enable us to bring this game together once and for all. And I don’t mean that as the game we see it now, but the game which has got 11 million fans who want to be part of it.”

In addition to the plan, the ECB has also committed to £25 million in funding over five years to support Ethnicity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) actions and the formation of a new anti-discrimination unit within six months, as well as setting EDI minimum standards for all venues with the power to withhold funding if those standards are not met.

Also included is a commitment to conduct a full-scale review into the detection, enforcement, and sanctions against discriminatory and abusive crowd behaviour at all professional cricket grounds before the 2022 season as well as to “best practice governance” with targets for Board diversity of 30% female and locally representative ethnicity by April 2022.

The five-point plan was developed in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal following a crisis meeting a week ago involving the ECB, MCC, Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) and the 18 first-class counties, among other organisations.

The five target areas are: understanding and educating more; addressing dressing room culture; removing barriers in talent pathways; creating welcoming environments for all and publishing localised action plans on a six-month deadline.

Under those headings, the plan lists 12 courses of action including “adoption within three months of a standardised approach to reporting, investigating, and responding to complaints, allegations, and whistleblowing across the game”; “a full review of dressing room culture in all men’s and women’s professional teams, both domestic and international”; and “action to aid progress into professional teams of people from diverse backgrounds (especially South Asian, Black and less privileged youngsters)”.

Every senior executive employed across the game will also have personal EDI objectives as part of their annual performance targets.

Barry O’Brien, ECB Interim Chair, commented: ”There is no doubt this is a critical moment for cricket. After our all-game meeting last week, we said we must rise to the challenge and respond with one voice.

“We have now set out a series of game-wide commitments so that cricket can start to make the transformation that we know is needed. Change is required as a matter of urgency, but we also recognise that sustained action is required over months and years to achieve fundamental and long-lasting progress. This must begin today.”



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Pat Cummins captaincy talking points

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Australian cricket heads into a new era following a tumultuous week

Pat Cummins has been named Australia’s 47th Test captain and will lead them in the Ashes after the resignation of Tim Paine. There are a number of key challenges that he is set to face in the role.

History of Australian bowling captains

Cummins is the first Australia fast bowler to captain the team since Ray Lindwall led them in one Test against India in 1956. Richie Benaud was the last frontline bowler of any description to lead Australia’s Test team with the legspinning allrounder captaining 28 times, the last of which was in 1963. Australia, as with the game as a whole, have had a preference for batting captains although globally there have been many examples of bowling captains having success in the Test match arena. The most recent being Jason Holder who led West Indies 37 times, taking 100 wickets at 26.76 with seven five-wicket hauls and a 10-wicket haul, not to mention his two Test hundreds in that time, including 202 not out against England. Cummins himself acknowledged the challenge of being a bowling captain, hence his preference to have Steven Smith as his vice-captain.

“There’s a couple of more unknowns about having a bowling captain and that’s why I think from the outset, I was absolutely determined if I was captain to have someone like Steve as vice-captain next to me,” he said.

Lack of captaincy experience

Cummins has been a professional cricketer for over a decade and played 252 matches across all three formats, but the extent of his captaincy experience is just four 50-over Marsh Cup games for New South Wales last season. Nathan Lyon gave Cummins a ringing endorsement for his brief captaincy spell on Thursday and Cummins was unfazed by his lack of experience and being rushed into the role.

“I’ve been vice-captain for two or three years,” he said. “Although I haven’t had too much experience as captain it was always in the back of the mind that this might pop up at some stage. Yeah, it’s right at the start of an Ashes series, but I feel like I’ve been really well equipped.”

Workload management

When to bowl, how much to bowl, and more importantly when to take himself out of the attack will be arguably Cummins’ greatest challenge as a Test captain. It was something that certainly challenged Andrew Flintoff who was the talisman in England’s attack when he took over the captaincy much like Cummins is now. Flintoff bowled himself 51 overs in an innings and 68 in a match after enforcing the follow-on against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in 2006, when he had a five-man attack at his disposal and the added part-time support of Paul Collingwood. Cummins has a game plan in place already to mitigate against such situations.

“I think that’s going to be one of the main things that I have to be aware of. And that’s why I’ll be leaning on people like Steven, plenty of senior guys around. I’m not out there by myself. There’s plenty of people lean on. You know, David Warner’s there, Nathan Lyon, Starcy, Joshy Hazlewood. There’s a lot of experience in the side. Sometimes I might need to listen to what they’ve got to say more than what I’ve got to say myself.”

There are also concerns about Cummins being captain in an era of bowlers being rested and rotated for workload management reasons but those fears may be unfounded with Cummins. Despite the fact he suffered multiple injuries and missed large chunks of cricket in the early part of his career, since returning to the Test side in 2017 Cummins has played 33 of a possible 35 Test matches, missing only one tour, the two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE 2018. He has twice played all five Tests of an Ashes series and completed three four-Test series. Cummins believes he will only rest in limited-overs cricket and as a result, is comfortable that he is unlikely to captain Australia’s limited-overs teams on a permanent basis.

Risk of too many chefs

A byproduct of Cummins’ role, inexperience, and desire for Smith to be his deputy could cause issues in terms of the chain of command. The vice-captain has traditionally been a subservient role requiring subtle leadership and deference to the captain. Cummins made no secret of the fact he wants to be a collaborative captain and wants Smith to be prepared to step in to make tactical decisions while Cummins is out on the field, particularly when he is bowling. This will be a rare dynamic and requires very strong relationships and trust to work well.

“I think it potentially could look different to what you’ve seen partnerships work in the past,” Cummins said. “There’ll be times in the field where I’ll throw to Steve and you’ll see Steve moving fielders around maybe doing bowling changes, taking a bit more of an elevated vice-captaincy role and that’s what I really want, that’s what I’ve asked and I’m really glad Steve’s happy with that as well. So we’ll nut out how exactly that works, but it’s going to be a real collaborative approach.”

Burden of expectation

Australia’s last two Test captains have been left their post in ignominy. Smith has returned as vice-captain but the irony of how it has come about will be lost on very few. It is a well-worn joke in Australia that the Test captain is regarded as the second-highest office in the land, but the reality is that there is often more reverence for the Test captain than the Prime Minister and the moral standards in some ways appear, rightly or wrongly, to be higher based on the experiences of Smith and Paine. The burden of perfection is already on the shoulders of Cummins but he is prepared for what it is to come.

“That doesn’t worry me too much,” he said. “I know with the role comes added scrutiny. But for 10 or 11 years I have been playing for Australia in the public eye. I won’t always get things right. I’m certainly not perfect. There’s going to be things that pop up. But as long as I can sleep at night I’m really comfortable with the responsibility.”

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Recent Match Report – Bangladesh vs Pakistan 1st Test 2021/22

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Bangladesh go through sessions two and three without losing a wicket to end the first day on a strong 253 for 4

Bangladesh 253 for 4 (Liton 113*, Mushfiqur 82*, Hasan 1-38) vs Pakistan

On a day in Chattogram that began with an earthquake and then had smoke from a nearby fire billowing above the stadium, Pakistan blazed through the Bangladesh top order to get the early advantage in the contest. Once Bangladesh found the ground beneath their feet, though, there were no aftershocks. Pakistan’s early morning menace melted away in the watery winter sunshine of the afternoon, and from four down for 49, Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das put on an unbroken 204-run partnership to wrest back control on the first day, the home side sitting pretty at stumps at 250 for 4. It’s just the second time Bangladesh have ever put on a partnership of 200-plus in Test matches against Pakistan.

Liton’s maiden Test century decorated the day for Bangladesh, a fighting knock from a man who has been knocked down a fair bit of late. Dropped from the T20 side after Bangladesh’s torrid World Cup campaign, Liton got a vote of confidence from captain Mominul Haque, who said Liton was strong enough to recover mentally. Coming in to bat with the top and upper-middle order decimated, Liton fought off the new ball, the spinners, a niggle as he approached his hundred, and, under the fading light, a few overs with the second ball, coming out of all of that unscathed to guarantee he would be out there on the second morning to take on Pakistan’s bowlers once more.

His partner, Mushfiqur, has enjoyed a similarly redemptive story arc on the first day. He, too, did not play the T20I series and was involved in a spat with his board. He looked especially fresh today. He was instrumental in turning the momentum around in the early overs of the partnership, removing the sting of Shaheen Shah Afridi with the expertise of a beekeeper and setting the wheels in motion for a Bangladesh revival. By stumps, he, too, was closing in on a hundred, just 18 away from his eighth Test match three-figure score. The last two times he reached that mark, he had gone on to score double-hundreds.

In the morning, Mominul Haque continued the trend Mahmudullah had started in the T20Is by besting Babar Azam at the toss, and, like Mahmudullah, opted to bat first.

But it was Pakistan, who called the early shots, dominating the morning with a new ball that found a surprising amount of swing. However, with Saif Hassan willing to drive on the up and put anything too straight away to the leg-side boundary, it was the effort ball from Afridi that fetched Pakistan’s first wicket. The left-arm quick banged one in that threatened to lodge up the batter’s nostrils, and the desperate fend from Saif found Abid Ali at short leg.

His opening partner Shadman Islam fell to an inswinging ball from around the wicket from Hasan Ali – who had been somewhat wayward up till then – that trapped him in front, beating the left-hander on the angle. Spinner Sajid Khan got into the act shortly after, coaxing an edge from Mominul, which the umpire somehow missed, only for the decision to be overturned on review. Pakistan threatened to run riot when Faheem Ashraf had Najmul Hossain Shanto caught sharply at point by Sajid, bringing Mushfiqur and Liton to the crease.

The pair survived the Pakistan offensive in the first session and saw off the early post-lunch overs cautiously, before getting comfortable with Pakistan’s five-pronged attack. Nauman Ali had kept a lid on scoring early in the middle session, but Bangladesh tended to get a boundary from the other end more often than not. They were more sure of their footwork, while the bounce stayed true when it came to both spin and pace, and the batters gradually began to find their timing and confidence. Afridi was punished by Mushfiqur whenever he went full or wide, the batter finding the gaps in the off-side with trademark precision.

Liton, meanwhile, wasn’t to be outdone, and used his feet to the spinners very well. A six over wide long-on after dancing down the track was the most explosive shot of the session, but it also indicated Bangladesh’s comfort with charging Pakistan’s spinners, who do not have the wrong’un in their armoury. In the period after drinks, the run-scoring against the spinners picked up markedly, and Pakistan were forced to bring back Hasan. But with the pitch offering very little to the bowlers, Bangladesh appeared to have realised this was their chance to notch up a competitive first-innings total.

Pakistan might have hoped the tea break would disrupt Bangladesh’s momentum, but they only returned rejuvenated. Aside from a sharp chance Liton offered to square leg when on 67, there was nothing for Pakistan, who found themselves firmly shut out as the bowlers came back for second and third spells to try their luck. The spinners might have been more probing with their lines; Sajid, in particular, was guilty of dropping the ball too short, with Abid at short leg paying the price, but for the most part, Bangladesh didn’t need any assistance from the bowling. Liton picked up his hundred with a quick single in the 78th over, putting in a dive to get to roars of approval from the home faithful.

As the sun began to set and the floodlights came alive, there was a faint glimmer of hope for Pakistan with the new ball due. Liton was struggling with cramp by now and the light was fading fast; this was as good an opportunity as ever to pick up another wicket. Bangladesh’s defences, however, were not to be breached, the duo bringing up the 200-run partnership before the day was out. It’s just the sixth time in Test history when four wickets have fallen before the fifty mark only to be followed by a double-century stand for the following wicket.

The partnership broke records left, right and centre, and as the players walked off, Bangladesh may just begin to feel they have a shot of finally getting a win over Pakistan in this format.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000



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