Brian Lara feels ECB needs to deal seriously with institutional racism in cricket. Photograph:( AFP )
Former West Indies captain Brian Lara believes it's high time for England Cricket Board to take a strong stand and deal with the institutional racism present in the country's cricketing circuit.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) released a 12-point action plan in November this year in order to tackle racism and discrimination in the sport. The move materialised after a number of players including former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq came out in public with their respective accounts of facing institutional racism at their respective clubs.
Rafiq had first opened up on facing racism at Yorkshire during an interview in 2020 following which the club launched an investigation into his claims. Rafiq alleged he suffered constant abuse due to his Pakistani heritage and was taunted with words like "Paki" and "elephant washers" by some of his teammates and club staff.
"I felt isolated, humiliated at times," the former spinner had said during an emotional testimony in front of a British parliamentary committee after ECB suspended Yorkshire from hosting any major or international matches over their handling of Rafiq's case this year. The racism row rocked English cricket leading to high-profile departures at Yorkshire.
WION's Sports Editor Digvijay Singh Deo caught up with the legendary Brian Lara on the sidelines of the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Albany, Bahamas last week. Reacting to the racism scandal at Yorkshire, Lara said it was high time ECB took the matter seriously and improve things for the future.
Lara, who played for Warwickshire in English county for a number of years, said racism was not only limited to cricket in England and that it's an issue plaguing several other major sports in the country including football, where players are often on the receiving end of racist chants and behaviour.
"I have played a lot of cricket in England. Not just cricket, a lot of other sporting disciplines - football, everyone seems to have a problem with it (racism). With the Yorkshire situation, English cricket will have to look at it seriously," Lara told WION.
"Someone coming out and speaking about it honestly from the heart, I think it could only benefit English cricket. It might look like a bad situation now but you cut it and see if you can improve things in the future," added the West Indies great.
When probed, if he faced a similar episode or came across instances of racism during his stint in England, Lara refrained from going into the details and said these things never deterred his focus from the game. However, the former West Indies captain insisted racism is an issue that needs to be dealt with firmly.
"It's not something I want to comment on. I have finished playing cricket 14-15 years ago. On occasions, you have been to different countries and these things happen and I suppose you have got to be focused," said the West Indies great, who is regarded as one of the greatest batters of all time.
"I was very proud to be a West Indian and these matters didn't factor too much in my mind. But, it's presently a situation in England and worldwide sport and we have got to do something about it," he explained further.