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News

Eoin Morgan: 'Significant change' on racism more critical than 'any trophies we win'

The team wants "matters of an extreme or serious nature" like racism in cricket "to be met head on", England captain says

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
05-Nov-2021
Eoin Morgan has insisted that he does not mind England's T20 World Cup campaign being overshadowed if that ensures Azeem Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire are "met head on", adding that bringing about "significant change" would be "bigger than… any of the trophies that we win".
Cricket has been on the front and back pages of British newspapers throughout the past week after government intervention into Azeem's case against his former club, with England's unbeaten record at the World Cup in the UAE going under the radar in comparison.
Morgan said that his squad was "very serious" in its desire to bring about "meaningful change" and said that the ECB's decision to strip Yorkshire of hosting rights for international fixtures showed "how seriously the ECB are taking how this has been handled".
"In matters of an extreme or serious nature like these are, they need to be met head on," Morgan said. "For us as a team, that's exactly what we want to see. The investigation's ongoing and live at the moment so only time will tell what happens, but I think the actions by the board have demonstrated how seriously the ECB are taking how this has been handled. Yes, we want to see the sport in a great light but equally if there's an issue as serious as this we want it dealt with as well.
"First and foremost, probably more so for the last two to three years, our culture has been built around inclusivity and diversity. It's actually been quite a strong part of our game. For that period of time we have been active about talking and actioning things that show meaningful change.
"Being a part of the significant change [is something] that we feel will lead to something that will be bigger than any of our careers, or any of the trophies that we win"
Eoin Morgan
"We are very serious about it. We firmly believe that there is no place in our sport for any type of discrimination, and I think the actions of the ECB board to Yorkshire have indicated how serious they are about dealing with issues like this."
England have taken a knee before games throughout their World Cup campaign and wore anti-discrimination t-shirts during a "moment of unity" at various points during their home summer. Morgan said that "continuing to give that strong message" was important and that England were "making good ground" towards meaningful change.
"There is only so much we can do as a team," he said. "I think having had a lot of chats with the team, being a part of the significant change [is something] that we feel will lead to something that will be bigger than any of our careers, or any of the trophies that we win. What we do at the moment to try and achieve that, it's not perfect, but we are making good ground towards change that we want implemented.
"Outside of that, we are actually limited to what we can achieve. Continuing to give that strong message, particularly in our moment of unity, and opportunities to speak to you guys [the media], and I suppose ultimately to be ourselves. In teams you have to be yourself. It should feel a little bit like being at home. Obviously it won't feel like being at home, being around your family, but it should be relaxed, and give you that freedom to feel comfortable in your own skin.
"From our point of view as a team, we can only do so much in role-modelling what we believe is right. Yes, we talk about it, but equally we want to do things that make a difference, and I believe we've made strides forwards as a group in doing that in various parts of our game. We have found things that are not only pushing things forward, or taking the cap forward, but also feel very authentic to individuals and where they have come from, the journeys they have been on."
Adil Rashid, England joint-highest wicket-taker at the World Cup to date, played with Azeem for a number of years and has been directly involved in the case, having been named in Yorkshire's report as a victim of an alleged racist remark from Michael Vaughan, the former England captain. Morgan insisted that Rashid was "travelling okay" and that he was "not concerned at all" that it would affect his performances.
"Adil is one of our players that, in the normal scheme of things, doesn't require a lot of support," he said. "Given what's happened so close to home for him, I think it's great that he does have a great support network around him. The team is here, his family are here, which is fantastic but there is no indication at the moment that anything out of the ordinary is happening.
"Being away in a different country detaches you slightly from things as opposed to being at home but certainly he's a guy that has been very close with Azeem Rafiq growing up at Yorkshire. But he's travelling okay at the moment. I'm not concerned at all."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98