'You're innocent, Mr Blain, but please don't say anything' - Chris Waters

THE letter is cold – like the freezing month in which it was sent.

Dated January 12, 2024, Pete Fitzboydon, the then interim chief executive of Cricket Scotland, writes to John Blain: “Further to recent discussion I write to confirm the conclusion of the ongoing investigation into allegations made against you. As advised, these allegations have not been founded, and there is not any case to answer, and so this matter is now considered closed.”

As opening paragraphs go, considering that Blain had publicly spoken of suicide after he was accused of racism first by Azeem Rafiq, his former Yorkshire team-mate, and then by Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh, his former Scotland colleagues, even wondering whether his young son would be able to “carry a coffin”, it seems icily formal, an almost grudging admission that his name had been cleared.

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Fitzboydon did go on to acknowledge the “inevitable distress this may have caused” (my italics), after Blain was exonerated following a Scottish inquiry that concluded that cricket in that country is institutionally racist, and noted that “this has been an exceptionally challenging period of time for you”.

However, a simultaneous request concerning his acquittal that “I would ask you could (sic) keep this confidential for the time being, as we are in the process of communicating the outcomes of referrals to complainers”, would seem to betray an underlying priority on the writer’s part, one which has now compelled Blain – amid continuing silence – to make public the fact he was found not guilty.

“It’s obvious to me that rather than publish this very clear and detailed judgement which fully exonerates me, Cricket Scotland is once again running scared of the small ‘anti-racist’ cabal which has exerted such a malign influence over our sport,” he said in a statement issued on Monday. “My life has been on hold for too long and it’s time that the truth is finally told about one of the biggest sporting scandals of recent times.”

Addressing the specific allegations levelled against him, Blain said: “Now that the investigation has cleared me, I am finally able to respond to those who falsely accused me. I simply could not believe that, after giving both Majid and Qasim considerable support during their careers, they made such false and disgraceful accusations against me.

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“If he truly believed I was a racist, why did Majid try so hard to persuade me to join his club, Clydesdale, as a professional player/coach in 2015, eight years after he claimed I’d used a racist word, and also recommended me to a string of Asian players for one-to-one coaching. Likewise, if Qasim really believed I was a racist, why did he seek me out for one-to-one coaching in 2014 to help him regain his Scotland place - something I gladly did for free?”

John Blain in action during the 2007 Scotland tour to Kenya in which it was alleged that he used the P-word. That allegation was dismissed by an independent legal team appointed by Cricket Scotland. Picture: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images.John Blain in action during the 2007 Scotland tour to Kenya in which it was alleged that he used the P-word. That allegation was dismissed by an independent legal team appointed by Cricket Scotland. Picture: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images.
John Blain in action during the 2007 Scotland tour to Kenya in which it was alleged that he used the P-word. That allegation was dismissed by an independent legal team appointed by Cricket Scotland. Picture: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images.

Aamer Anwar, the lawyer who represents Haq and Sheikh, was quoted by the BBC as saying in response that both men “remain victims of racism who continue to be abused, vilified and excluded for daring to speak out. Sadly, I suspect that will now increase.” Anwar added: “Cricket Scotland hoped this matter would simply go away. It will not, as they will see in the coming days.”

Blain, 45, is essentially calling for two things - an inquiry into what happened in Scotland, and for his name to be cleared south of the border. There is significant overlap.

The key corroboration in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s case against him, indeed, which formed part of the Cricket Discipline Commission hearings last year, was Haq’s allegation that Blain used the P-word in Kenya in 2007. This, said the CDC, backed up Rafiq’s claim that Blain used the P-word in his time at Yorkshire, with Blain found guilty, fined and reprimanded “on the balance of probabilities”. If Haq’s allegation has been thrown out in Scotland, though, it makes the ECB’s case, says Blain, “unsafe” and “unjust”. That other matters relating to the Yorkshire case are unsatisfactory has already been established beyond the point of theory.

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At the heart of it all is a human being, one who has lost work and much more – including “my very humiliating and public removal” from Cricket Scotland's Hall of Fame. Blain’s statement – too long to publish in full but visible on ‘X’ – touches on many things: his gratitude to those who have supported him; the personal and professional toll taken; the “activist agenda” that has caused “a climate of fear” at the expense of what people “know to be true”, and so on. But it’s his final paragraph that resonates – the antithesis of the cold letter he received in January.

Majid Haq, left, and Qasim Sheikh, right, with lawyer Aamer Anwar. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.Majid Haq, left, and Qasim Sheikh, right, with lawyer Aamer Anwar. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.
Majid Haq, left, and Qasim Sheikh, right, with lawyer Aamer Anwar. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

“I have been the victim of a cynical and highly effective smear campaign, including successfully putting pressure on several of my employers to sack me. I have suffered serious online defamation and multiple social media attacks. My house requires regular police surveillance, my children have also been targeted and the health of close family members has suffered due to the prolonged period of intense stress.”

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