Yorkshire is attacked for `cricketing apartheid'

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The Independent Online
YORKSHIRE CRICKET Club has had to fend off new claims that its recruitment practices are racist after former international cricketer Imran Khan accused the club of bypassing local Asian talent.

The comments by the Pakistani politician, made at the Cricket World Cup Final, have embarrassed a club already struggling to shake off an image fostered by an article in the cricket magazine Wisdenthat "cricketing apartheid" was "accepted practice".

Imran Khan, speaking on BBC Radio Five Live, said Asian cricketers had complained of racism for many years. "With Yorkshire, which is flooded with Asian people, how come an Asian just doesn't find a place? It baffles me.There's got to be an element of some prejudice."

His comments have hit home with the large Asian population in the region, particularly in West Yorkshire, home of the Asian-only Quaid-e-Azam league. It was set up more than 20 years ago because Asian cricketers were largely marginalised from the normal league system. The league ishighly competitive and has included in its ranks former Pakistani international cricketers Younis Younnah and Mahmood Zahir. But despite having 600players, only one, young fast bowler Kes Ahmed, has been asked to try out at the club's Leeds home at Headingley.

One local Asian cricketer, from Bradford, said: "It does cause deep resentment. We have a huge thriving league, a huge talent and they [Yorkshire] are just not interested. I would say it is more ignorant than racist but you have to wonder whether they do it deliberately."

The club last night defended its record. It employs a scout specifically to scour ethnic minority talent and for the past 10 years has drawn on youngsters earmarked by the Yorkshire Cricket Association Black and Ethnic Minority Forum. One of the club's three scholarship youngsters is Asian all-rounder Tabassum Bhatti.

The club's chief executive, Chris Hessle, said: "We take the matter very seriously and we expend every effort to redress the balance. Some of the black and Asian players we are developing are quite exciting and we look forward to producing our own Sachin Tendulkar or Wasim Akram in the not too distant future."