Lord Patel must go for Yorkshire to move forward with a truly clean slate - Chris Waters

IF it had been suggested eight months ago that the worst chairman in Yorkshire’s history would be followed by a man of comparable ineptitude the very proposal would have seemed preposterous.

Azeem Rafiq (centre) in the stands during day three of the third LV= Insurance Test Series Match at Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Azeem Rafiq (centre) in the stands during day three of the third LV= Insurance Test Series Match at Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

But Lord Kamlesh Patel is actually far, far worse than Roger Hutton.

Whereas Hutton was a figure out of his depth, a man who tried to take charge of a crisis with no knowledge of the club or the individuals involved in it, and who led a very old-fashioned response to a very modern challenge by basically saying as little as possible and hoping it would all just magically come right, Patel has acted with craven hypocrisy.

On the one hand, his Lordship swept into Headingley talking about transparency, fairness, about listening to everyone and finding out what had happened during the Azeem Rafiq racism affair, and on the other he then fired 16 members of the coaching and backroom staff without any attempt to do just that.

Those are not my words but the words, in summary, of Kunwar Bansil, the British Asian physiotherapist, who was one of those summarily and savagely sacked last year.

In an interview with The Times on Saturday, Bansil, who is now head of science and medicine at Nottinghamshire CCC, a club which saw through the cruelty and injustice of it all, laid bare his suffering and pain.

Born in Yorkshire to Indian parents, Bansil, 37, a highly intelligent and respected individual who was constantly around the players in the dressing room, on the team coach, on social nights out and so on, said that he was “never aware of any racism or complaints of racism during my time at the club”, an eight-year stint which spanned the final part of Rafiq’s first spell and all of his second.

"The picture painted of Yorkshire was that if you are a person of colour you were made to feel unwelcome, that you’d be regularly bullied or discriminated against,” he said.

"That couldn’t be any further from my experience of the club.”

Why won’t they listen to me, Bansil wondered?

Not Patel, who ruthlessly implemented the “total clear-out” demanded by Rafiq after Bansil was one of the 14 who signed a private and confidential letter to the old board which was effectively a cry for help in terms of how the club was dealing – or rather not dealing – with Rafiq’s allegations and which accused the former spinner of “endless episodes of behaviour which reflect on him as a person” and of being on a “one-man mission to bring down the club” which released him in 2018 at a time of personal tragedy following the loss of his still-born son.

Not Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS committee, whom Bansil badgered for a meeting but then said was “unwilling to listen or have a conversation and became, I thought, aggressive and dismissive” in a Zoom call which he said Knight abruptly terminated.

And certainly not a game or a media for so long unwilling to countenance the possibility that there might, in fact, be more to a story to which Bansil by no means even half-alluded in an article in which his dignity and decency shone through.

By comparison, Patel possesses few, if any, of those qualities, a man whose response to alleged immorality was to act in what Bansil rightly described as an “unfair, disproportionate and completely immoral” way himself.

Is that progress? Is that a club moving forward in the right direction? Of course not.

When Patel came to power, he delivered what I thought was a richly impressive opening press conference under the circumstances and which I had no hesitation in praising in The Yorkshire Post.

Since then? Pretty much everything that Patel has said and done has directly contradicted his election manifesto, as it were, in an almost Spinal Tap-type parody of how he is going to turn Yorkshire into the greatest cricket club in the world.

The greatest cricket club in the world? You must be kidding. It is not even the greatest cricket club in Yorkshire at the moment.

Sadly, for this is a story riven with sadness, Patel must go for Yorkshire to move forward with a truly ‘clean slate’, pun intended.

He has done the dirty work, performed the hatchet job that was possibly demanded from elsewhere, but he didn’t have to take the job and, as Bansil put it, for a man from a social care and mental health background, "I wonder if he ever took into consideration the mental health or wellbeing of 16 people and their families?”

It doesn’t end there. Patel has excluded the media from important AGMs and EGMs, from covering and closely scrutinising one of the shoddiest episodes in British sport.

His PR strategy, such as it is, has basically been to say nothing; as The Times article echoed, for the umpteenth time, “Patel was unavailable for comment”.

Yorkshire are in disarray. The players remain deeply disaffected by what has happened. It said everything that pretty much all of those who are on Twitter “liked” Bansil’s tweet of The Times article, one which said, lest it be forgotten, that Bansil was “never aware” of any racism at Yorkshire.

So how is Patel going to deal with that, might one enquire? Is he now going to sack all of the players as well, or is it just the coaches and backroom staff who merited the axe?

Bansil’s remarks prove the need for the only thing that would ever get to the bottom of this shoddy business – a public inquiry.

Rafiq has called for the forthcoming ECB hearings to be held in public which, of course, is never going to happen but will he and his PR team, Powerscourt, now join a concerted call for a full-blown public inquiry that would statutorily compel every scrap of evidence and testimony to be brought into the light?

We shall see.