Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

Azeem Rafiq (L) and Colin Graves (R) during hearings on racism in cricket. (Screenshots)
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Updated 01 March 2024
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Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

  • Following allegations of racism at Yorkshire CCC, a number of complaints were upheld and formally accepted by the club

LONDON: My cricket column this week referred to a follow-up hearing on Feb. 20 by the UK House of Commons Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport into racism in cricket.

It focused specifically on what measures had been put in place since its initial hearing in November 2021, and after the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket were published in June 2023.

The key catalysts for this have been Yorkshire County Cricket Club and one of its former players, Azeem Rafiq, who made allegations of racist behavior at the club. A number of the allegations were upheld and formally accepted by the club, although not, it seems, by all parties involved in cricket. Another figure in the saga has emerged, or rather re-emerged, in recent weeks.

Colin Graves was executive chair of YCCC between 2012 and 2015, and then chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board from 2015 until 2020. Prior to that he was part of a consortium that rescued YCCC from insolvency in 2002. Repayment of club debt was consolidated into Graves Trust funds, to which the club currently owes almost £15 million ($19 million).

Graves said that since his stint at the ECB ended four years ago, he “has not been involved with running any form of cricket.”

Ongoing financial difficulties at YCCC, exacerbated by costs generated by payouts to previous employees, have brought it, once again, to the brink of insolvency, and so the club’s board sought a financial rescue package.

A consortium led by Graves put forward a proposal that was accepted by a majority of the 25 percent of members who chose to vote. It seemed like there was a general feeling of inevitability about the outcome, inside and outside of Yorkshire.

Nevertheless, some have voiced concerns about the potential effects of Graves’ return to the club appointment as chair of the board. He accepted an invitation to appear at the last week’s hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee, during which its members articulated some of those concerns.

Asked whether he intends to bring back any of the previous backroom and coaching staff, his response was: “It has not been discussed by the board. We have our first board meeting on Monday (Feb. 26), and I am sure that the future, the structure, everything will be discussed. But at this point in time it has not been discussed.”

On the afternoon of Feb. 27, an article appeared in The Cricketer magazine, written by George Dobell, who has been closely associated with reporting on and supporting Rafiq’s case.

The article reported that, incredibly, the board of the YCCC was considering bringing back Mark Arthur, who was its CEO from 2014 until his resignation in November 2021. He stepped down days before the initial hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nov. 16, 2021. During that hearing, Roger Hutton, who served as chair of the YCCC board between April 2020 and November 2021, alleged that the CEO had attempted to prevent further investigation into the racism allegations.

During his tenure, Hutton commissioned a law firm to conduct a review of the allegations of racism. Only a summary of its findings has been released publicly. During his appearance at the Select Committee hearing on Feb. 20, Graves referred twice to this fact, though it was not clear why.

Seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq were upheld on Sept. 10, 2021, by an independent panel appointed by YCCC. It confirmed he had been the “victim of racial harassment and bullying.” Perhaps the fact that 36 allegations were not upheld provides YCCC’s new board with some hope for exoneration.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since that verdict. Part of that has been an acceptance, albeit in some cases reluctantly, that racism has been present in the game. Indeed, Graves proffered an apology during the recent Select Committee hearing to those from ethnic-minority backgrounds who had experienced discrimination or racism at the club, including Rafiq.

He said it “should never have happened, it never will be acceptable, and it certainly will not be going forward.”

Arab News asked Rafiq whether he felt the timing of the apologies ahead of the YCCC’s extraordinary general meeting to decide whether Graves would return as chair of the board, and those made during the Select Committee hearing last week, were coincidental and whether they could they be accepted as sincere. He declined to comment.

During the recent Select Committee meeting, Graves was asked whether he or his representatives had sent a legal letter to the publishers of “It’s Not Banter, it’s Racism,” a book by Rafiq that is due to be published in April. He said solicitors acting on behalf of YCCC had asked to see an advance copy. He denied that the tone of the letter was intimidatory and agreed to make public its contents. The reasons for requesting a copy of the book were not clear.

It is difficult not to feel a sense of unease about how the latest turn of events at YCCC might unfold. Graves deflected any detailed discussion during the Select Committee meeting of senior management appointments on the grounds that the club’s board had not yet met to discuss them.

This prompted one of the committee members to note that Graves “did not say that he would not bring back any of the old guard who were fired.” It was further noted that such people were those who had failed to notify the chair of problems that were subsequently shown to have existed.

Graves offered assurances that equality, diversity and inclusion measures put in place in the past two years would be guaranteed and fully supported. A new board member, Sanjeev Gandhi, will be appointed specifically to oversee the development of these EDI measures. Gandhi previously worked with Graves at the ECB on the creation of The Hundred tournament.

There was no mention or recognition of the measures to address EDI issues that were initiated by Kamlesh Patel, senior independent director of the ECB, during his time as chair of YCCC between November 2021 and March 2023. Instead, he has faced heavy criticism as the person who purged the old guard at a damaging cost to the County.

As far as can be seen, none of the British media has picked up the The Cricketer’s story. YCCC has not responded to requests for confirmation of its claims.

The ECB seems to be impotent in terms of intervention in a matter that, so far, is solely the YCCC’s business. It is difficult to avoid the feeling, however, that there is an underlying process of retrenchment at play, in which financial considerations are to the fore.

There is an old adage that suggests a strong Yorkshire (in cricket terms) means a strong England. The truth of this is about to be tested off the field. Graves has a responsibility not to undermine the progress that has been made since Rafiq’s allegations came to light, and to match his own words of apology and his commitment to equity with commensurate actions for the good not only of Yorkshire, but for English and Welsh cricket as a whole.

Trust needs to be reestablished. A good place to start might be to rebuild some trust with Rafiq, rather than reappointing a previous CEO.


Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

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Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

  • Dar becomes second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat in her 108th ODI match against West Indies
  • Prior to her, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone, has 151 wickets from 120 ODIs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani off-spinner Nida Dar on Sunday achieved her 100th One-Day International (ODI) wicket as her side lost their second game to West Indies at the National Stadium in Karachi.
This was 108th ODI match played by Dar, who became the second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat.
“Congratulations to Nida Dar being the second Pakistani female player to get over a hundred ODI wickets,” Lisa Sthalekar, former Australian woman cricketer and broadcaster, commented after the Pakistan-West Indies match.
“This shows you the long journey she has had. She is a fiercely character that loves that competitiveness.”
Prior to Dar, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone. She has taken 151 wickets from 120 ODIs.
In July 2021, the International Cricket Council announced that Dar had become the country’s first cricketer, male or female, to take more than 100 wickets in Twenty20 internationals.
She had accomplished the feat while playing a match against West Indies, though Pakistan were defeated in that game too.


Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

Updated 21 April 2024
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Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

  • The Nuggets continue dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings
  • Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers also win their NBA playoff openers

LOS ANGELES: The defending champion Denver Nuggets, powered by 32 points from Nikola Jokic, shook off a slow start to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in game one of their NBA playoffs first-round series on Saturday.
The Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in four games in the Western Conference finals on the way to their first title last season, continued their dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings.
The game was the finale of the first day of the playoffs, which saw the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Phoenix Suns 120-95, the New York Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic 97-83.
In Denver, Jokic added 12 rebounds and seven assists, Jamal Murray added 22 points with 10 assists and Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 for the Nuggets, who used a 13-0 scoring run to take charge in the third quarter — in which they limited the Lakers to 18 points.
James scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Anthony Davis added 27 for the Lakers, who cut a 15-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to six only for the Nuggets to pull away again.
Jokic’s only three-pointer of the game pushed the Nuggets’ lead to 103-93. He added a dunk over James, who took a hard fall with a minute remaining but stayed in the game to the bitter end.
“Mindset needed to change,” Jokic said of the Nuggets’ third-quarter resurgence. “I think for the second half defense was amazing.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the Nuggets’ 15-6 superiority in offensive rebounding was key as Denver piled up 18 second-chance points.
“You can’t allow them to get multiple possessions,” said Ham, who added that he still believed the best-of-seven series, which resumes Monday, will be a “hard fought” affair.
In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half as the Minnesota Timberwolves thrashed Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in their Western Conference clash.
Against a team that also had their number in the regular season, Minnesota’s Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert — bolstered by a strong supporting cast — turned the tables.
Towns scored 19 points, Gobert added 14 points and 16 rebounds and the Timberwolves reserves — led by 18 points from Nickeil Alexander-Walker — out-scored the Suns bench 41-18.
Up by 10 at halftime, the Timberwolves took full control in the third quarter, with Edwards scoring 18 points and taking the opportunity to needle Durant.
“I think everybody here knows that’s my favorite player of all time,” Edwards said of two-time NBA champ Durant. “That was probably one of the best feelings ever in my whole life, for sure.”
Durant finished with 31 points and seven rebounds. Devin Booker added 18 and Bradley Beal 15, but the Suns couldn’t find a way through the Timberwolves’ stifling defense keyed by Gobert.
“It’s just one game,” Edwards said. “They’re going to be ready the next time we play them.”
In New York, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart scored 22 points apiece for the Knicks and Miles McBride came up big off the bench with 21 — 13 of them in the second quarter.
The 76ers got a jolt shortly before halftime when NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid came down from a highlight reel dunk and appeared to hurt his surgically repaired left knee.
He returned for the third quarter coming up with a steal and feeding Kelly Oubre Jr. for a dunk that gave the Sixers a three-point lead late in the period.
The Sixers, led by 33 points from Tyrese Maxey, couldn’t stay in front, and with less than two minutes remaining Hart drilled a pair of three-pointers and OG Anunoby made another to help the Knicks seal it.
The Knicks host game two on Monday, with the Sixers breathing a sigh of relief that Embiid, who finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists, apparently will be ready as they try to even the series.
In Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers in a wire-to-wire victory that Allen hoped would set the tone for their Eastern Conference series.
“We keep saying ‘throw the first punch,’” Allen said in an on-court postgame interview. “I think it was the perfect example tonight.”
Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points but had nine of the Magic’s 12 turnovers.


‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

Updated 20 April 2024
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‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

  • Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287

NEW DELHI: Australia’s Travis Head smashed 89 off 32 balls to lead Sunrisers Hyderabad to another huge IPL total of 266-7 in a crushing 67-run victory over Delhi Capitals on Saturday.
Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287 and threatened to breach the mark once again at Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium.
Delhi skipper Rishabh Pant won the toss and put Hyderabad into bat on a batting-friendly pitch, which produced the fourth highest total of the T20 tournament.
Delhi were bowled out for 199 in 19.1 overs, with left-arm quick T Natarajan returning impressive figures of 4-19.
Hyderabad jumped to second spot behind Rajasthan Royals with five wins in seven matches.
Head remained the hero after he blasted a 16-ball 50 in an explosive opening stand with fellow left-hander Abhishek Sharma to tear into the opposition attack as Hyderabad reached 100 in five overs and 125 in six.
“On a bit of a roll there,” Head said of his form after he took second place in the batting chart with 324 runs including a century and two fifties. “Enjoyable, boys are on a roll.”
He said: “When you’re in good form, just trying to keep it simple. Reacted to the ball.”
Head and Sharma hit 12 sixes between them as the innings witnessed a joint IPL record of 22 hit over the fence and Hyderabad equalled their effort from the previous match when they smashed 287-3 in a win over Royal Challengers Bengaluru early this week.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav checked the carnage with two wickets in the seventh over as he sent back Sharma, out for 46 off 12 balls, and then Aiden Markram, for one.
Hyderabad then lost two wickets in the space of two deliveries after Kuldeep dismissed Head and fellow spinner Axar Patel bowled Heinrich Klaasen, for 15, at the start of the next over.
Shahbaz Ahmed then steadied the innings and kept up the attack as he hammered an unbeaten 59 off 29 balls.
Ahmed, a left-handed batsman, put on 67 runs with Nitish Kumar Reddy, who made 37, before Kuldeep dismissed Reddy to finish with four wickets.
Hyderabad lost two wickets in the final over including skipper Pat Cummins to a run out but Ahmed reached his first IPL fifty with a four and ended the innings with a six.
“I think powerplay was the difference,” said Pant.
“We were just catching up throughout the match. That was the massive difference. Hopefully we will come back with more thought process and clear mindset.”
Washington Sundar came in as the impact player in place of Head as Hyderabad added a spinner to defend the total.
Sundar opened the bowling and was hit for four straight boundaries by Prithvi Shaw, who was Delhi’s impact player, but got his revenge on the fifth when he dismissed the opener for 16.
David Warner fell to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for one before up and coming Australian batsman Jake Fraser-McGurk smacked an 18-ball 65 and put on 84 runs with Abishek Porel, who hit 42.
Leg-spinner Mayank Markande dismissed the pair and the rest of the batting failed to live up to the challenge despite Pant’s 44.
fk/mw


US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Updated 21 April 2024
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US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

  • More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries
  • US first with 11 medals, Italy second with 14, France third with 6

RIYADH: American fencers won 11 medals to top the table of medal winners at the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which concluded in Riyadh on Saturday.
Sheikh Salem Al-Qasimi, president of the Asian and Arab Fencing Federations, and Abdul Muneim Al-Husseini, vice president of the International Fencing Federation, crowned the winners on the final day of the championships held in King Saud University’s Arena Hall.
More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries during the competition, which took place on April 12-20.


The US team won the gold medal in the Sabre (team) under 20, defeating Romania who won silver, while Italy won bronze.
Lamia Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Fencing Federation board, and Ahmed Al-Sabaan, president of the Saudi Fencing Federation, awarded the winners of the Sabre (female teams) under 20. France won gold after beating Italy, while Hungary won bronze.
Al-Sabaan presented the championships’ flag to the representative of China as the upcoming hosts of the 2025 edition.
American fencers won four gold medals, two silver medals and five bronze medals. Italy came second on the table of medalists with 14 medals — two gold, five silver and seven bronze. France ranked third with six medals — two gold, one silver and three bronze.
The organizing committee honored the participating sponsors: MOTUS, Al-Arabiya, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospital, Gormet, Nova, and the Hadaya Alam Association.


Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

Updated 20 April 2024
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Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

  • Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal
  • Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time

LONDON: Bernardo Silva fired Manchester City back into the FA Cup final as the Portugal midfielder’s late strike sealed the holders’ 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal, but Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time.
Shaken by their Champions League quarter-final loss against Real Madrid on penalties in midweek, City took a while to shake off the gloom from the end of their treble bid.
They were hampered by the absence of Norway striker Erling Haaland after he suffered a knock against Real, with Julian Alvarez unable to make an impact as his replacement.
City were bailed out by Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson’s profligacy and Guardiola will hope the hard-fought success provides a timely lift as they chase a Premier League and FA Cup double.
City face Manchester United or Coventry, who meet on Sunday, in the final on May 25 and will retain the Premier League title if they win their last six games.
It will be City’s 13th final in the competition and potentially a repeat of last year’s 2-1 win over United in the Wembley Manchester derby.
Beaten by Liverpool in the League Cup final in February, Chelsea’s wait to win their first domestic trophy since the 2018 FA Cup goes on for another season.
It was a bitter blow for Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has endured a difficult first season in charge and remains without silverware in England.
The semifinal was billed as in-form Chelsea forward Cole Palmer’s chance to punish his old club for selling him to the Blues in September.
Guardiola said Palmer was asking to leave City for two years before he eventually joined Chelsea, where he has scored 23 goals in all competitions this, including 11 in his last six games.
Palmer, who scored four times in Monday’s 6-0 rout of Everton, was a constant threat for Chelsea, but ultimately it was his team’s lack of killer instinct that proved decisive.
Palmer’s pin-point pass sent Jackson racing into the City area early on, but his strike lacked the accuracy to beat Stefan Ortega in a miss that foreshadowed Chelsea’s fate.
Jackson wasted a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the goal their dominance deserved.
Enzo Fernandez’s pass split the City defense, but Jackson opted to go around Ortega rather than shoot and the chance was gone as Nathan Ake scurried back to clear.
Playing with more purpose and quality than City, Pochettino’s team threatened again as Palmer cleverly shimmied past Rodri for a low drive from 12 yards that was well saved by Ortega.
It was the first time lethargic City had failed to muster a first half shot on target since a game against Everton in February.
Jackson, in the midst of a terrible debut season, was put clean through on goal by Conor Gallagher immediately after the interval.
But the much-maligned striker’s shot was palmed away by Ortega, who clawed away a close-range header from Jackson seconds later.
City finally tested Djordje Petrovic through Phil Foden’s snap-shot, but the Serbian was equal to his powerful strike.
Chelsea appealed in vain for a penalty when Jack Grealish’s arm blocked Palmer’s free-kick, while Moises Caicedo was fortunate to escape a second booking for a crunching tackle that forced Grealish to limp off.
Grealish’s replacement Jeremy Doku drew an immediate save from Petrovic with a near-post blast.
Doku’s presence lifted City and the Belgian played a part as they stole the victory in the 84th minute.
Advancing with intent toward the Chelsea area, Doku slipped a pass to Kevin de Bruyne, whose low cross was pushed out by Petrovic to Silva for a close-range finish that deflected home as Guardiola punched the air in relief.