LONDON: England captain Joe Root said Monday he stood by his statement that he could not recall witnessing any instances of racism at Yorkshire as English cricket grapples with the fallout from the scandal.
The game in England has been rocked by damaging revelations from Pakistan-born former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq, who made a number of allegations against high-profile figures.
Rafiq said he found Root’s denial of ever hearing racist language “hurtful” when he gave harrowing testimony to lawmakers earlier this month concerning abuse he suffered over two spells at the county.
Root, who said he had exchanged messages with Rafiq since he gave his evidence, insisted again on Monday that he had never heard anything untoward.
“I stand by what I said,” said the Yorkshire player, who is currently in Australia leading England’s Ashes preparations.
“I don’t recall those incidences and, you know, if they are oversights on my part then that’s an area which we all have to learn from and I have to learn from.
“I think about things that have happened since then. There have been other things that have happened on a cricket field where I feel like I have stepped in and called things out and I think that comes from growth and learning and understanding and education.”
Root was praised in 2019 for calling out alleged homophobic language during a match against the West Indies.
The England and Wales Cricket Board unveiled a 12-point action plan to combat discrimination in the sport on Friday, including a review of dressing-room culture.
Rafiq told MPs that the use of the name “Kevin” as a derogatory term to describe any person of colour by his Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance was an open secret in the England dressing room.
Asked about that assertion during an online press conference, Root said: “That’s part of a live investigation and I’m currently not able to discuss matters on that because of that investigation.
“Clearly that is a phrase which you should never be using in any part of society.”
England’s preparations for the Ashes, which start next week, have been badly hampered, with last week’s three-day practice match wrecked by bad weather.
The tourists have just one more game before the opening Test begins at Brisbane’s Gabba ground — a four-day, warm-up game scheduled to start on Tuesday.
Root said it was frustrating to lose time in the middle but that players from England’s Twenty20 World Cup squad were only now linking up with the rest of the Test players.
“We always knew that this next phase was going to be the most crucial part, in terms of doing everything we can collectively — getting tight, getting clear and using this as best as we can to ready ourselves, and that’s going to be the real test for us,” he said.
“We’ve done a lot of brilliant planning in the last couple of years, about mentally how we can be ready, and what’s going to work on different surfaces and different grounds and having a really good idea of how we’re going to break down their team.”
England have lost nine out of their past 10 Tests in Australia but Root said his side had a chance to do “something special” in the upcoming five-Test series, which starts in Brisbane on December 8.
“I know exactly what it’s like to be on the wrong side of these series out here and it’s the dream as an England player to play in Australia and win, that is the dream, that is the cherry on top if you like and we feel we’ve got a brilliant opportunity ahead of us.”