Ashes 2021: Michael Vaughan axed by BBC, news, Azeem Rafiq racism claims, Monty Panesar, Australia vs England cricket, Yorkshire

Former England captain Michael Vaughan says he was “deeply hurt” to hear his former Yorkshire county teammate was racially abused.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has again denied he ever made racist comments while at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, as English cricket continues to face a reckoning over racism in the sport.

Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq exposed widespread racist abuse at the club in a bombshell testimony to British politicians earlier this month.

Vaughan said it “hurts deeply” that Rafiq suffered so much at Yorkshire, where Vaughan played from 1993 to 2009.

But he again categorically denied ever making a racist comment to a group of players of Asian descent during a match in 2009.

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Rafiq claimed Vaughan said “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” to him and three other players. Rafiq’s claim was backed by ex-Pakistan bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and England spinner Adil Rashid, who both said they heard the comment. The other player Rafiq said was on the receiving end of Vaughan’s alleged comment, bowler Ajmal Shahzad, has previously said he does not remember the situation.

In a new interview with BBC, Vaughan again denied making the remark. Asked if he ever made racist comments while at Yorkshire, he replied: “No I didn’t. No.”

He said: “I just remember it clearly that I was proud as punch that we had four Asian players representing Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“Nothing but a proud, senior, old pro just about to retire and absolutely delighted that Yorkshire had come so far in my time at the club.”

But he said he was “deeply hurt” that Rafiq faced years of systemic racial abuse at the club.

“It hurts deeply, hurts me that a player has gone through so much be treated so badly at the club that I love,” Vaughan said. “I have to take some responsibility for that because I played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club for 18 years and if in any way shape or form I’m responsible for any of his hurt, I apologise for that.”

Vaughan also apologised for previous racist tweets, as well as a racially insensitive comment made in commentary.

In 2010 he tweeted “Not many English people live in London … I need to learn a new language”. In 2017, following the Manchester Arena bombing, he replied “yes” to a question whether England player Moeen Ali should ask Muslims if they are terrorists.

Vaughan said he was embarrassed by those tweets.

“I apologise deeply to anyone that I’ve offended with those tweets,” Vaughan said. “Times have moved on and I regret those tweets. We all make mistakes and in my life I’ve made quite a few mistakes on Twitter, I apologise for that.”

Yorkshire players were slammed for calling India batter Cheteshwar Pujara “Steve”. Vaughan in 2018 referred to that live on air, saying: “Steve as they call him in Yorkshire because they can’t pronounce his first name.”

He said times had changed.

“Clearly we’re in different times now,” Vaughan said. “That was three years ago – that’s how much times have moved on in the three years.

“So when you start talking 12 years, 15 years, 20 years, everything is moving so quickly. We’re in that situation now for the game, sporting dressing rooms not just cricket dressing rooms, where everyone needs to be educated.”

Panesar defends Vaughan

Meanwhile, Vaughan’s former England teammate Monty Panesar leapt to the defence of Vaughan, who was dumped by BBC for this summer’s Ashes coverage.

A BBC statement said “while he is involved in a significant story in cricket, for editorial reasons we do not believe that it would be appropriate” for Vaughan to be feature in the coverage.

Vaughan said he “understood” the decision but hoped to return in the future.

“I just hope in time I get that chance to come back and the one thing that I’ve loved more than anything since I retired is talking cricket,” he said.

Writing for England’s Daily Telegraph, Panesar slammed the “black-listing” of Vaughan by the BBC as “deeply unethical”. He added it was “a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process”.

“Nobody disputes the gravity of the allegations made by Rafiq, even if the ones about Vaughan are at the lower end of the scale, and they need to be properly investigated,” wrote Panesar.

“Equally, the fact that this alleged incident took place 12 years ago means that it must be unlikely Rafiq’s claims will ever be proven.”

Panesar continued: “I have already said that I absolutely do not believe Michael Vaughan is racist. He was my captain when I played for England and I only experienced positive things with him.”

He added: “He always got the best out of me and several other cricketers from different backgrounds, and would make the point that he only ever wanted the best possible England team, regardless of race or religion.”

Originally published as Michael Vaughan rejects racism claims as ex-teammate Monty Panesar slams ‘deeply unethical’ BBC axing

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