‘Inside I was dying’: Ex-England U19 cricket star Azeem Rafiq – who captained Joe Root and Ben Stokes – reveals he was close to suicide thanks to his treatment during time at Yorkshire as he claims institutional racism is ‘worse than its ever been’
- Yorkshire County Cricket Club are facing pressure to respond to claims of institutional racism by former player Azeem Rafiq
- Rafiq revealed experiences at the club left him close to committing suicide’
- The 29-year-old he felt that, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an ‘outsider’
- Rafiq has captained both Joe Root and Ben Stokes at U19 international level
Yorkshire were today under mounting pressure to respond to claims of institutional racism at the club by former player Azeem Rafiq.
A fuller statement from the club is expected but they confirmed contact has been made with the former England Under 19 captain, who revealed in an interview with ESPNCricinfo that his experiences at Headingley left him ‘close to committing suicide.’
‘The club has an Equality and Diversity Committee, chaired by board member Hanif Malik. Hanif is in contact with Azeem about the allegations and will report back to the committee,’ a Yorkshire spokesperson said.
Azeem Rafiq says experiences during his time at Yorkshire left him feeling ‘suicidal’
Rafiq, who was captain to both Joe Root and Ben Stokes at U19 international level, said he felt that, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an ‘outsider’ and left on the brink of suicide.
‘I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire,’ he said.
‘I was living my family’s dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day.
‘There were times I did things to try and fit in that, as a Muslim, I now look back on and regret. I’m not proud of it at all.
Rafiq (centre right) poses for a picture with former team-mate Joe Root (centre left)
‘But as soon as I stopped trying to fit in, I was an outsider. Do I think there is institutional racism? It’s at its peak in my opinion. It’s worse than it’s ever been.’
Rafiq was first released by Yorkshire in 2014, just two years after he became the county’s youngest ever captain, leading them in several Twenty20 matches and helping them to finals day in Cardiff.
Following a season of league cricket, he was re-signed in 2016 and went spent two further seasons on the staff before being let go for a second time.
He has not played a first-class match since November 2018 – when he attempted to re-launch his career in Pakistan, the country of his birth – and at 29 is no longer involved in the professional game.
Rafiq (left, pictured 2009) captained England at Under 19 level and played for Yorkshire
Acknowledging that his decision to go public might deny him a return to it, he said: ‘Yorkshire don’t want to listen and they don’t want to change.
‘And part of the reason for that is the people who were involved in the incidents I’m talking about are still at the club. They just want to sweep it under the carpet.
‘But not this time. Not again. I know what I’m doing here. I know that by speaking out I’m damaging my chances of working in the game again.
‘But I also know it’s the right thing to do and if I have to stand alone to do it, I will.’