New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is hoping there will be “healing” with his former Yorkshire team on the eve of a third Test against England that was almost relocated from the county’s Headingley headquarters due to racism. Pakistan-born off-spinner A-spinner Afiq was first raised from racism and bullying in September 2020, related to his two spells in Yorkshire. Rafiq gave evidence to a parliamentary committee last year, sparking mounting pressure on Yorkshire over their previous failure to take disciplinary action.
This eventually led to a massive lifting of senior administrative figures and coaching staff.
The England and Wales Cricket Board also threatened to withdraw lucrative internationals from Headingley unless changes were made.
Reforms promoted by new chairman Kamlesh Patel stably off what could have been a financial disaster for Yorkshire.
But the issue is far from over, with the ECB taking disciplinary action against the club and “a number of individuals” who officials have yet to name.
Last month, former Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale won a claim for unfair dismissal, giving the club the prospect of paying compensation.
Williamson, who played for Yorkshire as a foreigner from 2014 to 2018, was not required when asked if he had witnessed specific incidents of racist abuse during his time at the club.
But the batsman said he hoped something good would come out of Rafiq’s testimony.
“It was incredibly sad to see what happened,” Williamson said. “I can only hope that something positive comes out and the awareness that it is made to move forward in a positive way.
“There is no room for racism or discrimination in sport or society. I was here for a few short stints and enjoyed my time in Yorkshire.
“There have been some problems that have been made conscious recently and you can only hope that there is a cure.
“There has been an enormous amount of awareness all over the world, efforts to go through that awareness and make it a more inclusive place, whether in sport or in other workplaces.”
Asked about the racism issue, English captain Ben Stokes said his side understood that they “had a responsibility on the field, as well as off the field”.
The Stokes’ men will aim to sweep the series of three Tests, having won both previous games by five wickets, when the clash begins on Thursday in Leeds.
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