Azeem Rafiq has told a Cricket Discipline Commission hearing that claims he blackmailed the England player Adil Rashid to support his case against Michael Vaughan are “categorically untrue”.
On the second day of the hearing into racism in Yorkshire cricket, Rafiq accepted there were some discrepancies in his evidence, including precisely what Vaughan had said to four Asian players before a T20 match against Nottinghamshire in 2009.
However Rafiq insisted that while he had given two slightly different versions of the alleged phrase, in an interview with Wisden and then to the Yorkshire investigators, the key claim – that Vaughan had used the words “there are too many of you lot” – to Asian players was in both.
Rafiq’s allegation forms the basis of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s case against Vaughan, who it says has brought the game into disrepute. Vaughan categorically denies the charges.
Earlier in the day the CDC heard claims casting doubt on Rafiq’s account by another Yorkshire player in 2009, Ajmal Shahzad. In a written statement, Shahzad said he denied hearing Vaughan use those words and suggested that Rashid was being “pressurised” by his former teammate to support his case.
“I think there are a lot of things that you guys may not be aware of that are happening, and it’s quite murky,” Shahzad told the ECB in an interview read out at the hearing. “I spoke to Rashid in December when I was at Yorkshire coaching and he was very uncomfortable with where this was going.
“He wanted to nip it in the bud sooner rather than later because quite frankly he was uncomfortable with how much Rafiq knew about Adil … and that at some point [Rafiq] was capable of, you know, using something that he knew about [Rashid] personally against him.”
However Rafiq denied that was the case. “Adjmal accuses me of having blackmailed Adil,” he said. “That is categorically untrue.”
Under cross examination via video link from England’s white-ball tour of Bangladesh, Rashid also denied being blackmailed by Rafiq. And he insisted that a shared business interest in a fish and chip shop with his former teammate had not pressured him into backing his friend’s story.
“I didn’t agree that Azeem ‘knew’ anything about me, including anything that might be compromising, as there is nothing,” he said. “I did not feel pressured by Azeem. I did feel pressured by the situation generally.”
Rashid was also questioned about the 2009 incident and said he had a clear recollection of Vaughan’s comments. “As soon as the huddle broke off, people were going towards their places, that is when I remember it being said: ‘There’s too many of you lot, you need to have a word, you need to do something about it’. It is the phrase ‘there’s too many of you lot’.”
The England spinner stated he was not offended by Vaughan’s alleged comments but took them as “bad humour”.
However under cross-examination Rashid admitted he could not remember the result of the match, the weather at the time, or where he was in relation to Vaughan when the words were allegedly said.
Christopher Stoner KC, the counsel for Vaughan, showed the hearing Sky Sports TV footage that showed the players joking and Rashid laughing as he patted his teammate Tim Bresnan before the alleged incident was due to have occurred. “There are no signs of anything untoward,” he added.
Stoner also questioned Rafiq and Rashid’s memory of the incident – and asked why it had taken 11 years for Rafiq to go public with his allegations.
“I wish now I had said it at the time,” replied Rafiq. “Maybe I wouldn’t carry the mental scars. Anyone who has never gone through this. It is disappointing to read this from Ajmal. I don’t know what to say, I wish I had the courage to have said it earlier.”
Rafiq also told the hearing about a meeting with Vaughan in November 2021 at which the Ashes-winning captain had apologised. However Rafiq came to subsequently believe it was an “apology non-apology”.
“I felt like I was being played,” he told the hearing. “I got a call from colleagues of his about his general attempts to discredit me while he was in Australia. With my trust as low as it had been I didn’t want to go through any more.”
Vaughan, the only former Yorkshire player to appear at the hearing of the seven charged with bringing the game into disrepute, is due to give evidence on Friday.