PAUL NEWMAN: England’s third Test against New Zealand will be played out against a backdrop of bile at Headingley… Yorkshire have made one wrong turn after another since Azeem Rafiq’s allegations and there is no end in sight to the turmoil
- Yorkshire promised drastic reform in wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal
- Truly, it is hard to imagine what more Yorkshire could have done to muck it up
- They tried to sweep Rafiq’s claims under carpet and hoped they would go away
- Robin Smith and Lord Patel have not covered themselves in glory ever since
So, this third Test is what the fuss was essentially all about. The game between England and New Zealand that Yorkshire were desperate to keep through fear of financial ruin when they were stripped of international status in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal.
Yorkshire retained Thursday’s game — and the one-day international against South Africa next month — when they promised drastic reform, with not even Rafiq wanting them to lose the fixtures and threaten the future of the game in England’s biggest cricketing county.
But at what cost? For this Test will be played out against the backdrop of the biggest scandal in even Yorkshire’s troubled history, with the embattled county seemingly making one wrong turn after another in their desperate attempt to put things right.
Yorkshire retained the Test between England and New Zealand after promising drastic reform
But they have completely mishandled the affair which began with Azeem Rafiq’s allegations
Truly, it is hard to imagine what more Yorkshire could have done to muck up this whole sorry affair. If you had asked them to make as many bad decisions as possible in the aim of causing maximum chaos then they could not have done a better job of it.
There was the complete mishandling of Rafiq’s allegations from the moment they were made public last year when Yorkshire just tried to sweep the whole business under the carpet and hoped it would go away.
Then, when it became clear they could not, there was the sorry sight of former chairman Robin Smith doing everything he could to cover his own back in front of MPs when cricket got dragged to parliament before trying to undermine his successor, Lord Patel.
There was the sorry sight of former chairman Robin Smith (centre) doing everything he could to cover his own back
Not that Lord Kamlesh Patel has covered himself in glory either since taking charge
Not that Patel has covered himself in glory either. The drastic decision to sack 16 members of staff who had signed a letter imploring them to take a firmer stance against Rafiq’s allegations of institutionalised racism risks Yorkshire losing millions in compensation.
Now the club and seven people, including former England captain Michael Vaughan and current player Gary Ballance, whose future in the game is uncertain because of long-term mental health issues, face ECB charges of bringing the game into disrepute.
And the long-feared exodus of players, despite the best efforts of two of the good guys in interim managing director Darren Gough and coach Ottis Gibson, may have started with the departures of David Willey to Northants and Tom Kohler-Cadmore to Somerset.
Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan faces ECB charges of bringing the game into disrepute
You would think, with such a backdrop, Yorkshire would have launched a major public-relations assault ahead of this game. To try to show they really are changing and that they are worthy of protecting the heritage of this great old county and ground.
Not a bit of it. Not yet anyway. All was quiet at Headingley on Tuesday while the two teams went about their practice. No word from any spinning communications staff and no sign of Lord Patel to make a rare appearance to try to convince us he knows what he is doing.
The cricket will probably be compelling — it usually is at Headingley — but otherwise all continues to be rotten at the heart of Yorkshire cricket. With no end in sight to the turmoil.
The long-feared exodus of players may have started with David Willey returning to Northants
Train strikes threaten to affect the crowd at the third Test despite good sales for the first four days. But there was one enterprising move on Tuesday and it came not from Yorkshire but the Barmy Army.
They launched a Twitter appeal asking to hear from those planning to drive to Leeds who could help stranded ticket-holders.
They received an excellent response, too, with people from all over the country offering spare car seats. The Barmies can get a bad press but they do a lot of good for charity on tour and for England fans.