Cricket: How can a 'culture of racism' be changed for future generations?

Cricket lover Shajait Ali tells ITV Central's Rosie Dowsing about his experiences of racism in the sport, and what he thinks needs to change.

A man from Stoke-On-Trent says being a South-Asian cricketer means he gets treated differently.

Shajait Ali was targeted with racial slurs while playing cricket at 13 years old, and since then he says the everyday micro-aggressions towards ethnic minorities in cricket have continued apace.

Shajait wanted to share his own experiences of racism, after Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq shone a light on an alleged culture of racism in the sport.

He said: "At 13 years old, I remember vividly being racially abused in a game, just for batting well.

"It made me feel alone. I was in a team full of 11 players, but I felt alone because it was directed at me."

The racial micro-aggressions, Shajait says, are worse.

"They'll stand in your face and say, 'you lot,' 'you all play like that', or 'there's never any money behind the bar when this lot play.'

"Those words hurt more. The P-word can be explicit, but the micro-aggressions we face every day in cricket makes us feel worse."

In terms of what needs to change, Shajait says there needs to be more South-Asian representation in both the coaching and administration of cricket.

This way more players might be able to progress from grassroots to higher levels, where teams are less diverse.

"Until we have people in administration that understand my lived experience, you're not going to get that translation into county cricket."

He also says more people should be confident to call out racism as soon as they witness it.

'A culture of racism'

The problem of racism in cricket has had more attention this year due to former Yorkshire captain Azeem Rafiq calling out the racial slurs and treatment he said he was subject to for a long time in the sport.

Rafiq made allegations of institutional racism against Yorkshire CC during two spells at the club between 2008 and 2018.

The allegations led the cricket club to launch an independent investigation and an apology by the club to Rafiq for being the victim of 'inappropriate behaviour'.

The 30-year-old then went on to give evidence at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, where he said the 'culture of racism' was far-reaching for many cricketers at all levels.

Cricketer Azeem Rafiq held back tears as he gave evidence to MPs about the racism he has suffered. Credit: House of Commons

What can be done by those at the top?

The Chief Executive at Warwickshire County Cricket Club says the Azeem Rafiq case has made everybody across the cricketing world "wake up."

Stuart Cain told ITV News it has given them 'fresh impotence' to make sure everybody feels safe and welcome at Edgbaston in particular.

An open trial has been held at the club to welcome all young cricketers aged between 18-25 - regardless of skill and background - to show off their talents in front of scouts from local clubs.

Those organising the event say it's important to make sure no one falls through the net.