England captain Ben Stokes has reiterated his side’s “responsibility” to the game extends beyond the field of play, as they prepare for a Headingley Test that was at one stage threatened by the damaging allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire.
Azeem Rafiq’s claims of institutional racism and discrimination during his time as a White Rose player earned cricket some unwanted front-page coverage after his appearance in front of a parliamentary select committee last year.
Further accusations, about Yorkshire, as well as other counties, followed in what will go down as a bleak moment of reckoning for the sport, with the England and Wales Cricket Board at one point suspending Headingley’s right to host international cricket.
The tale is far from told, with ECB disciplinary charges laid against the club and “a number of individuals”, but the return of the Test side over the next five days represents some form of business as usual.
Patel has surprisingly been noticeable only by his absence during the practice days at Headingley and, with no other appearances from Yorkshire management, it was left to Stokes to field questions on the matter.
“I’ve got my responsibilities for the team that I’m in charge of at the moment,” he said. “And we’ve got a responsibility on the field, as well as off the field, to do what we do.
“We know if we keep doing good things on the field we’re going to attract a new pool of fans towards the game. That’s all we can do, that’s what we’re good at – going out and playing cricket and winning games. But we know as international cricketers we do have a responsibility on and off the field.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of things going forward – as the England cricket team and for me as captain – that we will have the responsibility of doing.”
“It’s been incredibly sad to see what’s unfolded,” he said. “I can only hope that something positive comes out of it and the awareness that it’s created to move forward in a positive manner.
“There is no space for racism or discrimination in sport or society. I was here for a few brief stints and enjoyed my time at Yorkshire. There were some issues that were made aware more recently and you can only hope that there is healing.
“There’s been a huge amount of awareness throughout the whole world… efforts to continue that awareness and make it a more inclusive place, whether in sport or other work places.”