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Root on racism: 'Cricket has a huge amount of learning to do'

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Published in Cricket
Monday, 29 November 2021 05:50

Joe Root, England's Test captain, has reiterated his claim that he did not witness any instances of racism in the Yorkshire dressing-room, but acknowledges that cricket still has a "huge amount of learning to do" in the wake of Azeem Rafiq's allegations.

Root's initial statement on the subject earlier this month led Rafiq to claim he was "incredibly hurt" by his former team-mate's failure to back up his claims of discrimination during their shared time at Yorkshire. And though Root added that the pair had exchanged a "couple of messages" since, he doubled down on his position while speaking ahead of England's four-day Ashes warm-up in Brisbane.

"I stand by what I said. I don't recall those incidents," Root said. "If they are an oversight on my part then that's an area that we all have to learn from, and I have to learn from.

"Hopefully when we finish this tour, we will get the opportunity to sit down and talk about this whole situation," Root said of his relationship with Rafiq. "Along with talking to Azeem, I mentioned in my statement that I want to talk to Lord Patel [the chairman] at the club - those dialogues have started. I think it's important we keep finding ways of bettering the sport, finding ways how we can individually affect things for the better and make a real change in it.

"There is still education that I need to undergo to develop myself further, and I think everyone does," he added. "There's so much work that has to be done, so much energy that has to be thrown into this and there has to be a real drive to make a real difference."

Root said he was unable to comment, however, on Rafiq's separate allegation that the nickname "Kevin" - a term he said had been coined by his former team-mate Gary Ballance to describe people of colour - had been an open secret within the England dressing-room. Rafiq's testimony before Parliament also included the claim that Alex Hales had even named his dog "Kevin" as an in-joke, and the ECB has since opened an inquiry into the issue.

"That's part of a live investigation and I'm currently not able to discuss matters on that because of that investigation," Root said. "But clearly that is a phrase that should never be used whether in the dressing room or any part of society. I don't think I'm in a position to comment more about that."

Root did, however, insist that there had since been moments when "I feel like I have stepped in and called things out" - namely his on-field criticism of the West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, for making homophobic comments during a Test match in St Lucia in 2019.

"That comes from growth and learning and understanding and education," he added. "Discrimination in general is something we have to look to stamp out as much as we can. If there are mistakes, maybe we call them out straight away, and we find a way to keep improving the environments we are playing and working in.

"I'm not saying we've always got things completely right, we haven't, but we clearly have to look to keep getting better and better the sport as much as we can and have those difficult, uncomfortable conversations sometimes. Hopefully that makes a game better for everyone.

"I look at the group of players that are around this team right now and the other two England men's teams," Root added. "We have spent a lot of time talking about these topics and what's happened, and how we can make a real difference.

"I certainly feel like there are a lot of good conversations happening which hopefully can follow into action and we can start to drive the game from our position at the spear point of the sport. That will only come in time from proving it and actually delivering on some of the things that we've discussed as a group."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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