Wasim Akram shocked by English cricket racism scandal but says his own experience differs

Pakistan great gives his thoughts on problems brought to light by British Pakistani Azeem Rafiq against his former club Lancashire

Wasim Akram, who served for over a decade as an overseas player for Lancashire and then Hampshire, said the racism scandal does not resonate with his experience of county cricket. AP Photo
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Wasim Akram says he has been shocked by the racism scandal in English cricket, saying it contrasts entirely with his experience of county cricket in the 1990s.

The former Pakistan captain also defended David Lloyd, his former Lancashire coach, who was named during Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to UK politicians about racist abuse in the English game.

The entire coaching staff of Yorkshire was removed last week following the public outcry over the club’s handling of allegations of institutional racism.

The crisis at the club led to intervention from the UK government, while the England and Wales Cricket Board last month published a five-point action plan to address racism and discrimination.

During the course of his wide-ranging submission to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing, Rafiq accused Lloyd of making disparaging comments.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit shows former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq fighting back tears while testifying in front of a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee in London on November 16, 2021. AFP

Lloyd, the renowned commentator, subsequently apologised. He wrote on Twitter: “I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise most sincerely to Azeem and the Asian cricket community for doing this.”

Fellow broadcaster Michael Vaughan was also accused of saying “there are too many of you lot” about a group of three British Pakistanis, as well as Yorkshire’s overseas player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who is from Pakistan.

Vaughan has repeatedly denied the incident. He is presently suspended from his broadcast role with the BBC.

Wasim, who served for over a decade as an overseas player for Lancashire and then Hampshire, said the racism scandal does not resonate with his experience of county cricket.

“I don’t know about now, but in my 10 years playing for Lancashire I never heard ‘You lot,’ and I never heard the P-word,” Wasim said.

“Nobody used that to me. I never heard that, ever. Otherwise I would have remembered.”

Wasim said Lloyd was respectful during their time as colleagues in cricket.

“He coached us for three years,” Wasim said of the former Lancashire and England coach.

“He was respectful to my culture. He knew I don’t eat pork. He knew I don’t drink. He never insisted on anything. My lunch was separate.

"The boys helped me a lot. In the beginning they would pick me up from my place and take me to the ground, because these were the days before GPS.

“It was like family. I still have a house there. I still go there every summer. My best friend is Neil Fairbrother. Freddie [Andrew Flintoff] lives just behind my street. I loved [his time in the English game].”

Pakistan bowling great Wasim Akram was recently at Expo 2020 Dubai as an ambassador for Mastercard.

Wasim says his experience as an overseas professional in English cricket may differ from those of British Pakistanis.

“People might go against me with this statement, but when you go to England, you try to learn their culture,” he said.

“This is talking as a Pakistani – not a British Pakistani. What I wouldn’t want would be to have three or four Pakistani mates, sitting there speaking in my own language.

“You are in their culture. You don’t have to drink, because Muslims don’t drink. But just have a soft drink or a glass or milk, sit there for half-an-hour and try and learn where they are coming from.

“I never experienced anything like this in my time there. They treated me like I was part of their family. I enjoyed every bit of it. Lancashire has been an important part of my life.

“I went to Lancashire in 1988. In 1989, I became the No 1 fast bowler in the world. That is how county cricket helped me – on and off the field.”

Updated: December 07, 2021, 6:43 AM