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Monty Panesar says British Asians should ‘focus on cricket’ amid racism storm

Panesar, a veteran of 50 Tests for England, also said his experience of racism in first-class cricket were different to those described by Azeem Rafiq

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Sajid Javid discusses Yorkshire cricket racism scandal

Former England spinner Monty Panesar has urged young players from British Asian backgrounds to “focus on their cricket” in order to stay away from “conversations about fitting in and diversity”.

His comments come in the wake of the racism storm which has engulfed the sport, sparked by bowler Azeem Rafiq ‘s allegations that he and several others suffered abuse and discrimination while playing for Yorkshire.

Since his testimony in front of a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, a commission set up to tackle racism in the sport has received more than 2,000 responses.

All 18 first-class counties have been implicated in at least one complaint received by the commission, highlighting just how deep the issue runs within top-level cricket.

Monty Panesar has spoken about the racism storm which has engulfed English cricket
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PA)

Speaking about Rafiq’s situation, Panesar said he felt the bowler “could have empowered himself” and offered advice to younger players about what they should do if they find themselves in a similar situation.

“A life coach could have given him guidance. Little tips,” Panesar told The Guardian. “Sometimes we can be quite selfish as sportsmen.

“If my life coach was sitting with Azeem Rafiq he would say: ‘How’s your fitness? What are you doing on the yo-yo [test]? Why aren’t you taking more wickets? How much effort are you putting in with your teammates?’

“My message to British Asians coming through is just to focus on your cricket. And that takes you away from conversations about ‘fitting in’ and ‘diversity’.”

The veteran of 50 Tests went on to suggest there may be “a north-south divide” in terms of how players’ experiences of racism differ, adding that he felt the problem “doesn’t exist” in the southern leagues.

“Some of this stuff is very embedded in Yorkshire. But parts of it seem – how do I say it? – very unique to [Rafiq],” he added.

Monty Panesar said his experiences of race in cricket were very different to the allegations made by Azeem Rafiq
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PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

“I felt sorry for him because he needed someone to help him. 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.”

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