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Cricket’s game-wide response to combat racism is set to be unveiled on Friday after two delays already to the publication of a 12-point action plan.
An emergency summit of the sport’s leading decision-makers took place last week, days after Azeem Rafiq appeared in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee where he detailed in depth his own experiences of racism in cricket.
England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison, who had also been present for the parliamentary appearance, emerged from last Friday’s ‘all-game’ meeting at the Kia Oval determined to lead cricket out of the crisis despite his position being under intense scrutiny.
Following an all-game meeting at The Kia Oval, cricket today committed to taking wide-ranging action to tackle discrimination and promote inclusion and diversity at all levels.
— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) November 19, 2021
A lack of detail accompanied a statement which insisted “tangible” change was coming and after Harrison had insisted a 12-point action plan would be published on Wednesday, it was pushed back a day before a further delay of at least 24-hours has occurred.
It was put down to “small details to work through” with a nod to the happiness of the “whole network” being key, but cricket’s fight to tackle racism was dealt a further below when Mehmooda Duke departed her role as Leicestershire chair with immediate effect on Thursday.
Duke was one of only two people from ethnic minority groups to hold such a role across the 18 first-class counties and while she had been due to stand down in March, her parting statement admitted: “Cricket has been torn apart by recent events and I am deeply saddened by the hurt felt by individuals within our game.”
No indication was given for the reason of her early resignation but with the ECB’s 12-point plan expected to contain demands for a specific minimum of ethnic minority representatives on respective county boards, Duke’s exit is an immediate blow to that target.
It is understood clubs and counties failing to adhere to the new rules risk having their ECB funding revoked.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported all clubs from grassroots level up will be required to undertake diversity training, which is similar to what Warwickshire will implement after they concluded their investigation into allegations current player Tim Bresnan repeatedly used racist language towards Rafiq.
Ex-England international Bresnan denied the allegations last week and in a new statement he apologised to the former Yorkshire off spinner and acknowledged “there needs to be a shift in cultural awareness and understanding in the game”, while he pledged to support the next generation of cricketers coming through at Edgbaston.
Warwickshire chair Mark McCafferty confirmed the club had spoken with Rafiq and had reminded Bresnan of their expectations of him and revealed all senior and academy players, coaches and members of the wider management team will participate in further cultural awareness and appreciation training.
Michael Vaughan, who has also been accused of racism by Rafiq and has categorically denied the claims, has already been left out of the BBC’s team for the upcoming Ashes tour and has inadvertently forced BT Sport into reviewing its plans to use Fox Sports’ commentary for the series.
Vaughan is currently part of the Australian broadcaster’s team and while BT Sport hold exclusive UK TV rights for the five Tests, it planned to take the audio feed from Fox Sports.
Yet in light of recent developments regarding Rafiq’s claims, the position is being looked at and BT Sport could use audio from Channel 7, who have Sir Ian Botham and Ricky Ponting as part of their set-up.
Elsewhere, former Middlesex and Durham bowler Simon Hughes has resigned from The Cricketer magazine following criticism for his comments in a podcast regarding Rafiq’s allegations of racism at Yorkshire involving Gary Ballance.