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The game of cricket has evolved and Colin Graves must adapt accordingly.
Cricket Sport

The game of cricket has evolved and Colin Graves must adapt accordingly.


When did the controversy surrounding racism in Yorkshire truly begin? It was not with Azeem Rafiq’s initial statements, which were met with silence from the club followed by a lengthy investigation and a insufficient apology.

In actuality, a change occurred in November of 2021 when sponsors ended their connections with the county and the England and Wales Cricket Board halted international matches at Headingley. This resulted in a halt of incoming funds and, along with some political turmoil, led to a fresh start. Lord Patel took over as chair, many support staff were let go, and there was hope for a revamped and inclusive Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Once more, money holds the power to determine the direction of progress – this time, in reverse. The financial troubles that have plagued Yorkshire were detailed in their annual report last year, as they spent £3.5m in addressing allegations of institutional racism within the club. The resulting payouts and legal fees added up, creating an existential crisis for the club. This created an opportunity for Colin Graves, who previously saved the club in 2002 and served as its chairman before taking on the same role at the ECB from 2015 to 2020. Graves is set to return as the club’s supposed savior, pending an Extraordinary General Meeting on February 2nd.

The supposed options portray him as angelic. Mike Ashley’s past endeavors in sports at Newcastle caused bitterness and animosity. Joining forces with the Rajasthan Royals would have been another move towards the global domination of the IPL, and the rumors of Saudi involvement did not provide any comfort. Therefore, it is more appealing to turn to Graves, who took on the task of rescuing the county over 20 years ago out of pure love for the sport. “I have been obsessed with cricket my entire life,” he stated during the celebrations following Yorkshire’s County Championship victory in 2014. “When I saw the state that Yorkshire was in, I couldn’t just sit back and watch it disappear.”

Experienced in these matters, he openly shared his concerns about the club’s financial situation in an interview with Sky last June. However, his statements on the county’s cultural awakening were even more troubling. “I do not believe that there is institutional racism in Yorkshire,” he stated. “If there is evidence, then that is a different story, but I do not think it is ingrained in the organization. I simply do not see it.”

Graves’s main point was that the words spoken were not intended to be racist or savage. He acknowledged that there may have been some playful teasing involved. However, he also recognized that times have changed and it is no longer acceptable to use such language. He understands and accepts this.

Azeem Rafiq at Headingley in 2022

In recent years, many have dismissed the issues at Yorkshire and other places by minimizing them to mere incidents of offensive remarks in the dressing room. However, this narrow perspective fails to address the larger problem of the underrepresentation of South Asian players at professional levels, despite their significant presence in recreational cricket.

Following that, we can shift our focus away from discussions about the lack of representation for South Asians in positions of influence in the sport. Once we have addressed that issue, we must also acknowledge and address the numerous challenges faced by Black communities, not just within Yorkshire but throughout the entire English game, as Graves was not only in charge of Yorkshire but also the entire sport in England.

A few weeks following Graves’ interview on Sky, the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket conducted a study based on feedback from over 4,000 individuals. The findings revealed prevalent cases of institutional racism, sexism, and class-based prejudice within the realm of cricket in England and Wales. There may be those who demand further evidence.

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We can remain focused on Yorkshire if desired. In 2015, as Graves rose in power at Lord’s after leaving Headingley, a study conducted by Leeds Beckett University and commissioned by Yorkshire Cricket looked into the relationship between south Asian communities in Leeds and Bradford and the club. The study found that despite efforts from the county to involve these communities, members still feel that Yorkshire Cricket does not prioritize or appreciate minority ethnic participation in cricket.

According to Graves, he did not experience any instances of racism during his tenure as chair and no reports were made to him. However, he believes that there is still much work to be done within the club. Even those who oppose him should wish him well. Yorkshire remains a prestigious organization that is worth preserving, having produced great players and attracted others for short periods of time. Today, the club can take credit for contributing to the success of the national men’s Test team. But as Graves returns, it is important for him not to dwell on the past four years and instead recognize the growth and improvements that have taken place.

The recent financial report revealed the club’s unstable financial situation, but also reported a 60% rise in the number of boys from different backgrounds participating in their county age-group teams since 2021. As Graves advocated for changes, the sport has seen improvements. He should adapt to these changes.

Source: theguardian.com