Azeem Rafiq returns to Headingley for first time since testimony over racism

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA</span>
Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Azeem Rafiq attended day three of the Headingley Test as Yorkshire’s guest, returning to the ground for the first time since he went public with claims of institutional racism at the club.

Rafiq watched from a balcony at the Pavilion End, having accepted the club’s invitation to take in a game that was almost relocated at the height of the racism scandal set in motion by his whistleblowing. Yorkshire’s right to host international fixtures was suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board after Rafiq’s harrowing testimony in front of a parliamentary select committee last year. The sanction was only lifted four months ago, in recognition of a new leadership regime led by Lord Kamlesh Patel and the work it had done to address failures of the past.

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The 31-year-old was also present at Lord’s for the first Test of the summer but it is understood concerns were raised about him advertising his return to Headingley. He sent a solitary tweet in the morning, with just one word: “nervous”.

Meanwhile, Rob Key is set to lead England selection for the remainder of the international summer as the director of men’s cricket takes his time sourcing the best full-time appointment for the role.

Key has chaired selection meetings for the men’s Test and white-ball teams since replacing Ashley Giles in April but made it clear from the outset he intends to reverse his predecessor’s decision to scrap the role previously held by Ed Smith.

No position has been advertised yet, with Key still working through the specification of a role and deciding whether to split it by way of format like his appointments of Brendon McCullum and Matthew Mott as Test and limited-overs head coach respectively. Key is understood to be leaning towards a sole national selector to oversee the process and has previously admittedsaid it will be the trickier vacancy to fill given the more unique nature of it compared to the coaching options worldwide.

Until then, Key will continue to oversee selection in conjunction with McCullum and Mott, with input from Mo Bobat, the ECB performance director, and David Court, the men’s player identification lead.

Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan, respective Test and white-ball captains, also sit in on discussions over their squads.

After the muddle of last year’s rest and rotation policy last year, England’s have made Test cricket their clear priority in selection this summer.

However, a winter that features 19 bilateral white-ball internationals, a T20 World Cup in Australia and Test tours to Pakistan and New Zealand will require some deft allocation of multi-format players.

McCullum, for example, has already sounded out Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid over their availability for Test cricket and the three-match series in Pakistan thisin December.

But as two linchpins of the white-ball set-up, this would mean three months on the road before Christmas, with the Twenty20 side departing for Pakistan on 15 September.

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