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Moeen Ali hopes that Yorkshire crisis can lead to lasting change

England allrounder praises Azeem Rafiq for encouraging others to share experiences

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid are two Muslim players within the England dressing-room  •  ICC via Getty

Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid are two Muslim players within the England dressing-room  •  ICC via Getty

Moeen Ali hopes that the short-term pain of the ongoing racism crisis at Yorkshire can have long-term benefits for the whole of English cricket, as he welcomed the chance for the sport to embrace true diversity and "open up those avenues for everybody".
Speaking from the UAE, where England are preparing to face New Zealand in the T20 World Cup semi-final on Wednesday, Moeen said that he had "never felt discriminated against" like Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire, but said that his bravery in speaking out was likely to encourage others to come forward too.
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised but there's probably more stories out there that people haven't heard of," Moeen said. "The fact it's come out is great because, going forward, people [will] have to think about what they can or can't say in terms of discriminating against people and knowing what people feel and go through."
Rafiq's original testimony in 2020 included an admission that his treatment at Yorkshire had left him "on the brink of suicide", and Moeen believes that his honesty will have helped to break a major taboo when it comes to addressing such issues within dressing rooms.
"Azeem's talked a lot about his mental health and I think that's really, really important," Moeen said. "I think the most important thing is that people who do suffer with mental health are really being looked after in this situation.
"What Azeem has done, he is not doing it for any personal gain, I think he wants change and that's what he's pushing for.
"It's not banter at the end of the day," he said of the use of the word "P**i", the slur that Rafiq's team-mate Gary Ballance last week admitted he had used to address him. "We've got to be really careful with the language that we use. The environment is really important, because when the environment is right, that sort of language doesn't come out."
Moeen added that Rafiq's experiences at Yorkshire had become part of an "open discussion" within the England dressing room, which he praised for its inclusive values - perhaps most memorably articulated after the 2019 World Cup victory, when Eoin Morgan, the captain, said that "Allah had been with us" in the tense final against New Zealand.
Morgan's comment was a reference to the two Muslim players in England's white-ball squad - Moeen and Adil Rashid, who also plays for Yorkshire - while the current squad also includes players of Caribbean and Southern African heritage, as well as Morgan himself, who played for his native Ireland until 2007.
"It's been talked about quite a lot actually," Moeen said. "It's about having an open discussion, and to be learning as well as a team, about what we can do to change those mindsets, and how comfortable we want people to be when they come into this environment, no matter where they're from, what they do, or any background that they have.
"Everybody has a story in our changing room about their own background and it helps with people coming from all different parts of the world as well," he added. "Massive credit goes to the coaches and Eoin Morgan for really pushing it so that everybody's just normal with each other. It just feels like home to be honest with you."
Nevertheless, during the summer, England's Test team experienced a similar reckoning to the ongoing one at Yorkshire, when Ollie Robinson's debut at Lord's in June became overshadowed by a series of offensive tweets that he had posted in his early years as a professional. While Moeen admitted that the fall-out from that episode had been ugly, he felt that it too would prove to have been a positive experience in the long run.
"I think a lot of players have learned from the Ollie Robinson situation and I think it's made people more aware of things that they probably weren't aware of before," he said. "It doesn't look great right now, but hopefully in the future, it will make a massive impact and that's what we want.
"Sometimes you need to have a bit of a dip to really come out. That's from Yorkshire's point of view as well as the whole cricket community and culture. There's going to be big changes. I know one thing the ECB has always [done] since I've been playing is to try and really push those boundaries and open up those avenues for everybody, really.
"We're a multicultural country where diversity is rife and that's what we want. We don't want to have to go through what we're going through right now again, in five years' time, 10 years' time."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket