Scotland’s Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh say they were treated differently by Cricket Scotland because of their ethnicity

It would seem Yorkshire’s Azeem Rafiq’s publicity over his racism ordeal at YCCC has triggered a snowball effect.

Scotland’s all-time leading wicket-taker Majid Haq says Cricket Scotland is “institutionally racist” after he and former team-mate Qasim Sheikh opened up about the abuse they suffered during their careers.

Cricket Scotland has said it will thoroughly investigate any allegations of racism or harassment, and has launched an Equality Action Plan which it hopes will create positive change. However, they said though they’d deal with any allegations of racism or harassment, they will not discuss individual cases.

Haq and Sheikh allege they were treated differently to team-mates due to the colour of their skin, and have called for an independent inquiry into the organisation.

Majid Haq, 38, who represented Scotland over a 13-year period and made 209 appearances, never played again after posting a race-related tweet during the 2015 World Cup. “At the time, I was treated like a criminal,” he says.

“In 2015 I put out a tweet saying it’s tougher in the minority. I was on the next flight home, that shows how tough it can be.

“I felt isolated and I felt I was right, but I was told by the organisation to delete the tweet and apologise. I never did, why should I apologise for something I believe in.

“Over the last six years, that’s made me believe in things even more. There needs to be some anonymity for those who are brave enough to speak up.

“I never played again, and that is something I used to love doing. I am still the leading wicket-taker of all time for Scotland.

“Three months later, a white player complained about being left out of a squad and they did a massive U-turn within a day. There were different rules for him and different rules for me.

“A lot of people have asked me if I think Cricket Scotland are institutionally racist – I think they are. An investigation would show that they are.

“There are a lot of failings in the processes and the opportunities Asian cricketers are getting compared to a white player.”

Qasim Sheikh claims he’s been accused of ‘jumping on a bandwagon’ in the wake of Azeem Rafiq’s ordeal, but says he first spoke out about rascism at Scotland around ten years ago
(Picture credit: Sky Sports)

Cricket Scotland issued a statement: “Cricket Scotland operates a zero-tolerance policy to all forms of racism and discrimination and condemns racism in all its forms.

“We know that there are longstanding issues both in sport and wider society around racism and racial inequalities that still exist and that negatively impact many individuals, and we know that we must play our part in addressing those in our sport.

“Last week we launched our Equality Action Plan, which has been in development for several months.

“An important part of that will be reaching out to all communities to understand their experiences of playing cricket in Scotland, both positive and negative, to better understand those experiences and inform our future actions.

“As announced, we will be appointing an independent expert to run that crucial piece of work and are committed to acting upon its findings.

“We won’t discuss individual cases at this stage, but we would re-iterate that any allegations of racism or other forms of harassment – whether recent or historic incidents – that come out of that consultation, or that are reported separately to Cricket Scotland, will be thoroughly and properly investigated and dealt with. We would encourage everyone to engage with those processes.”

Haq said the treatment he suffered still affects him today.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “For me it’s about how we go forward now is important.

“The youngsters coming through need to see a pathway, and not be blocked politically. Parents need to see that as well.

“We need more Asian coaches coming in. Not just token Asian coaches, Asian coaches who have also played at the highest level who are not afraid to voice their opinion.

“We need people who will speak their mind and pick the best players. Coaches around Scotland don’t have the knowledge or experience I have.”

37-year-old Qasim Sheikh also believes his Scotland career was brought to an end for speaking out after suffering alleged racist abuse when playing for Scotland.

He revealed that he’s since been targeted for opening up about his experiences of racism.

“My understanding of institutional racism was getting called the ‘P word’ or getting called other references,” Sheikh said.

“I thought it had to be things like that or regular slurs towards you, which never happened on a regular basis.

“However, it’s more like unfair treatment. I was 25 years old and had scored back-to-back centuries for my country.

“There were no other 25-year-olds who had delivered those kind of results. I was dropped from the team for two bad performances.

“I tried to get back in and it wasn’t happening – so I spoke out in the national press.

“What followed was no one spoke to me for years, and I never played for my country again after the age of 25.

“I look at some other people who have spoken out and went on to have decorated careers.

“I didn’t do anything illegal, I shared my feelings and never played again. That felt unfair.”

Sheikh claims he has been “targeted for jumping on a bandwagon” following the allegations that have emerged in the wake of Rafiq’s evidence. “I first spoke out about it around 2011, 2012,” he said.

“This is not something that’s just happened now.

“I voiced it to the organisation, but I never got any response. My punishment was that my career was over. I dedicated my life to playing for Scotland.

“I don’t think people understand what racism is like if they haven’t experienced it, so it’s hard for them.

“I don’t want all my ex-teammates thinking they acted racist towards me, it wasn’t like that. I’ve got lots of good friends, I feel sad because lots of them are getting really defensive and that shouldn’t be what this is about.

“It shouldn’t be about attacking individuals, it should be about the whole organisation getting looked at to see what they can do better and move on in a better way.

“Maybe by the next World Cup we might have a few different faces in the coaching team, a couple of diverse figures in there as well which might encourage more people to go for these roles.”

‘Cricket Scotland in denial’

Lawyer Aamer Anwar believes Cricket Scotland select players based on colour rather than ability

Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who has been supporting both Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh told Sky Sports: “I think Cricket Scotland are in denial and individuals involved with cricketing in Scotland are still in the dark ages.

“They have failed to take action when individuals have chosen to speak out.

“They have been victimised, they have been excluded. Some of the treatment is deeply shameful.

“It’s all very well now that the associations are doing reviews and passing policies and statements, that question I would ask is ‘what action have to actually taken to deal with the past? What action have you taken to deal with the racists? What action have you taken to show you genuinely want to eradicate racism?

“Policies are all very well, but they’re on paper.

“Cricketing in Scotland, I believe, is institutionally racist. Sanctions are robustly used against people of colour; individuals are not picked to play for the national or local side and there are always excuses.

“You don’t see diversity in coaching or on boards. Are they saying people of colour don’t have talent? If they do have talent, why are they not selected? Why is there no diversity?

“Why don’t they start speaking to the ex-players who were vilified, abused, and humiliated?

“Cricket in Scotland has not faced up to the fact it is institutionally racist, and they are not diverse as a body and they have failed to tackle it.”

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