Cricket: Hassell rejects Wisden claims

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The Independent Online
CHRIS HASSELL, the Yorkshire chief executive, has described Wisden's criticism of club cricket in the county as ill- informed. Matthew Engel, the editor of Wisden, claims in the new edition that "cricketing apartheid" has become "accepted practice" in England.

"It has become normal for ethnic-minority players to gravitate towards their own clubs, and there is now clear-cut evidence of segregation operating, informally, in both Yorkshire and Essex," Engel wrote in the editorial to this year's edition.

Accusations of racism in the county have been levelled on many occasions before, notably by the former England skipper, Allan Lamb, who complained about the treatment meted out to the Indian spinner, Anil Kumble, during a NatWest semi-final between Yorkshire and Northamptonshire at Headingley.

And while Engel's claims are directed more at the local leagues than the county itself, Hassell was quick to counter the accusation. "We have taken positive steps to address the situation but a fair bit of these comments are ill-informed," he said. "I don't think there is anything specific about ethnic groups gravitating together in Yorkshire, it happens everywhere. All different nationalities are as guilty of that as any other.

"Our cricket development officer for West Yorkshire - Tony Bowry - is West Indian and he has specific responsibility for black and ethnic issues."

Yorkshire have been heavily criticised in the past for the absence of Asian players from the county side. In an area boasting a high percentage of players from the sub-continent, only one has ever played first-class cricket for the county and that was the former Indian skipper, Sachin Tendulkar, employed as an overseas player.

Yorkshire's fully-Asian competition, the Quaid-e-Azam League, has been competing in the White Rose Trophy for the last few years, which Hassell feels is a positive step. "It is important they are part of the competition and it helps us to monitor the quality of the players coming through the system."