Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan has said he categorically denies claims of racism made by former Yorkshire teammate Azeem Rafiq.
In a strongly-worded statement, he also said that to be confronted with such an allegation “11 years after it has supposed to have happened” is the “worst thing I have ever experienced”.
During a 30-year career as both a cricketer and a commentator, he said he had “never been accused of anything remotely similar” and could not allow his reputation to be “trashed unfairly”.
Rafiq claimed Vaughan had said to a group of the team’s Asian players that there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” before a match.
Vaughan replied: “I categorically deny saying the words attributed to me by Azeem Rafiq and want to re-state this publicly because the ‘you lot’ comment simply never happened.”
Vaughan said anyone who had seen TV footage of a Yorkshire County Cricket Club pre-match huddle in 2009 “and the interaction between the players would find it hard to reconcile those scenes with the version of events that has been presented”.
He continued: “I remember the match clearly because it was the first time in Yorkshire’s history that four players of Asian heritage had been selected in the same team.
“It was an important milestone for the county and it was also a moment of pride for me personally.
“I made a point of shaking all four players’ hands that day because I recognised it was a significant moment.”
Vaughan noted: “I wrote enthusiastically about this specific match in my autobiography, saying: ‘This is going to be the shape of things to come for Yorkshire, as many of our most promising players come from the Asian community and it ought to be a good thing for our cricket.’
“Given my view that the inclusion of Asian players in the Yorkshire team was a very positive and welcome development, it is inconceivable I would have made the derogatory comment attributed to me. It goes against everything that I have always believed.”
The restatement of his denial comes as another player, Adil Rashid, backed Rafiq’s claims.
Rashid, who still plays for Yorkshire, told The Cricketer: “I wanted to concentrate as much as possible on my cricket and to avoid distractions to the detriment of the team but I can confirm Azeem Rafiq’s recollection of Michael Vaughan’s comments to a group of us Asian players.”
Vaughan said in his statement that it was “extremely upsetting that this completely false accusation has been made against me by a former teammate, apparently supported by two other players”.
He added: “For some time, Ajmal Shahzad [who became Yorkshire’s first British Asian cricketer in 2004] has been on record as saying that he never heard me say what has been suggested.
“I have been in contact with the six other players from that team and not one of them has any recollection of the remark being made.
“I fully accept that perspectives differ, and I have great sympathy for what Azeem Rafiq has gone through, but I hope everyone understands why I cannot allow this to go unchallenged or my reputation to be trashed unfairly.”
Yorkshire CCC is currently mired in controversy over its handling of racism claims made by Rafiq.