Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq‘s testimony to a British parliamentary committee on Tuesday has thrown a spotlight on racism in the sport in England, as well as its drinking culture.
Rafiq, a Muslim, recalled how he was pinned down at his local cricket club when he was 15 and had red wine poured down his throat by an unnamed player who played for Yorkshire and Hampshire.
The scandal has shaken English sport, cost Yorkshire sponsors and the right to host England internationals, seen the club’s top brass quit, and embroiled some of the biggest names in English cricket.
Best, who played with Rafiq at Yorkshire, told BBC Sport: “The culture around cricket is drinking. That is a big problem. People shouldn’t be pressured to go into the clubhouse and drink eight or nine pints to be a part of the team.”
“If you’re not a part of the drinking culture, if you’re not a part of the boys’ club, you’re not going to get opportunities after cricket,” he said.
“That is something that is hampering people of colour and Asian ethnicity.”
Best, 40, said he recalled how players with Asian heritage such as Rafiq, Adil Rashid and Ajmal Shahzad were treated at Yorkshire in 2010 and how they feared reprisals if they went public with their complaints.
“Me being a person of colour as well, I would always be with them as well.”
He said they would complain every day about what they went through.
“I would be like ‘wow’,” he said. “It was just astounding to hear what those guys were saying back in 2010. And there was no platform for them to really open up, because guys would have probably lost contracts, probably kicked out of the club. Guys were fearful of that.”
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