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News

Darren Lehmann Hundred appointment under scrutiny in wake of Azeem Rafiq revelations

Coach's racial outburst in 2003 could lead to change at helm of Leeds-based Northern Superchargers

George Dobell
George Dobell
04-Sep-2020
Darren Lehmann was appointed as coach of Northern Superchargers in 2019  •  Getty Images

Darren Lehmann was appointed as coach of Northern Superchargers in 2019  •  Getty Images

Darren Lehmann's appointment as head coach of Northern Superchargers, the Hundred team based in Leeds, is likely to be reviewed in light of Azeem Rafiq's allegations of "institutional racism" at Yorkshire.
In 2003, Lehmann was suspended for five ODIs after using racially abusive language following his dismissal in a game against Sri Lanka. While Lehmann, previously a hugely successful overseas player with Yorkshire, has expressed remorse over the incident - he has described it as "the biggest mistake" of his life - that history could well come back to haunt him.
Among Lehmann's assistant coaches in the Hundred is Yorkshire's head coach Andrew Gale. He was banned for four games in 2015 for improper conduct after telling the South African batsman Ashwell Prince to "f**k off back to your own country, you Kolpak f****r."
In a tournament designed to appeal to a new audience - not least a new ethnically diverse audience - the presence of a coaching team with that record could be seen as unhelpful.
Either way, it seems Yorkshire are going to be under close scrutiny from the ECB to ensure the investigation they announced on Thursday is thorough. So concerned was Tom Harrison, the ECB's chief executive, by Rafiq's story, he phoned him within minutes of reading the ESPNcricinfo article on Wednesday night. Among other things, he is understood to have promised to look into the issue personally and expressed his sympathy and concern.
The ECB's intervention would appear to have sparked a belated response from Yorkshire who, on Thursday afternoon, issued a statement promising a "formal investigation into the specific allegations made by Azeem Rafiq and a wider review of [the club's] policies and culture."
Rafiq's concerns were first published, by Wisden.com, on August 17. Yorkshire have been asked several times since then for a comment, including by ESPNcricinfo on September 2. They declined to provide any comment until the ECB's intervention on September 3.
Central to that intervention has been Harrison. Like many in the world of cricket, he has been shocked by recent revelations relating to racial prejudice in the sport. During a zoom call with staff about the Black Lives Matter Movement, he is understood to have broken down in tears and he is in the process of setting up an Inclusion and Diversity taskforce at the ECB.
In the more immediate term, the ECB have confirmed they will "follow… closely" the Yorkshire investigation and "consider any further… steps which may be appropriate." Among those is likely to be an investigation by James Pyemont, who is now the ECB's Head of Integrity, but was previously a batsman with Derbyshire and Sussex and then a detective inspector in the Metropolitan Police.
Meanwhile Gulfraz Riaz, chair of the National Asian Cricket Council (NACC), has confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he would be happy to assist with Yorkshire's review. The NACC is an advisory body that already assists the ECB in its aims of improving engagement with the South Asian cricketing community in the UK.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo