Monty Panesar spoke after Azeem Rafiq detailed the abuse he allegedly suffered at Yorkshire, but insists racism is not something he has encountered in leagues in the south of England
Former England spinner Monty Panesar has claimed that racism in cricket doesn’t exist in southern leagues.
The ex-Northamptonshire and Sussex star was speaking about the crisis engulfing the sport amid Azeem Rafiq’s accusations of racial abuse during his time at Yorkshire.
Rafiq spoke before a parliamentary select committee from the department for media, culture and sport after a report into alleged institutional racism at Yorkshire was compiled following his allegations.
In it, Rafiq claimed a former teammate, now confirmed to be former England Test star Gary Ballance, repeatedly called him a ‘P***’ among a string of other accusations over how he was treated at Headingley.
That has led to other cricketers telling their stories, but Panesar insists racism is not a problem he has encountered in leagues in the south of England.
“I felt sorry for him [Rafiq] because he needed someone to help him,” he told The Guardian. “I was very fortunate that I had support around me.
“But then you look at this case and you think: ‘Wow. Does that kind of stuff still exist?’ Because it doesn’t exist in the Hertfordshire league. It doesn’t exist in Bedfordshire. I haven’t seen it in the Essex league. Maybe it’s a north-south divide.”
Panesar has also come out in support of his former England captain Michael Vaughan, who has been stood down by the BBC for the upcoming Ashes tour.
Vaughan is accused by Rafiq and two other Asian players, England star Adil Rashid and Rana-ul-Naved, of making a racially insensitive comment towards them before Yorkshire’s T20 at Nottinghamshire in 2009.
The now 47-year-old denies the allegations but will not work for the BBC this winter.
“Nobody disputes the gravity of the allegations made by Rafiq, even if the ones about Vaughan are at the lower end of the scale, and they need to be properly investigated,” Panesar wrote in The Telegraph.
“Equally, the fact that this alleged incident took place 12 years ago means that it must be unlikely Rafiq’s claims will ever be proven.
“I have already said that I absolutely do not believe Michael Vaughan is racist. He was my captain when I played for England and I only experienced positive things with him.
“He always got the best out of me and several other cricketers from different backgrounds, and would make the point that he only ever wanted the best possible England team, regardless of race or religion.”