England team can be driving force for change in cricket, Liam Livingstone claims

The England batter has spoken about the racism scandal that has ‘rocked the cricketing world’

Rory Dollard
Thursday 18 November 2021 14:48
England’s Liam Livingstone wants the national side to drive change in cricket (Bradley Collyer/PA)
England’s Liam Livingstone wants the national side to drive change in cricket (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Liam Livingstone wants the England team to become the “driving force behind change” after admitting the unfolding racism scandal has “rocked the cricketing world”.

Livingstone played an instrumental role in leading England to the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup earlier this month, watching on from the United Arab Emirates as Azeem Rafiq’s longstanding allegations of discrimination at Yorkshire became one of the biggest stories in sport.

A host of household names, including several former internationals, were implicated in Rafiq’s damning testimony to a parliamentary select committee on Tuesday and he claimed a derogatory term used by Gary Ballance had once been “an open secret in the England dressing room”.

England’s limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan has previously made a virtue of his side’s cultural and racial diversity and Livingstone believes the spirit within that squad can point the way forward for others.

Speaking to the PA news agency from the Abu Dhabi T10 league, where he will captain hosts Team Abu Dhabi, he said: “This is something that has rocked the cricketing world and it’s not been nice to see.

“I think the good thing within our England camp is the diversity we’ve got. Everybody has different backgrounds, everybody grows up differently and it’s something we celebrate. The diversity and equality we’ve got in the England squad is something we love.

It's up to us, we're at the top of the game in England, hopefully we can be the real driving force behind change in the game.

England's Liam Livingstone

“So it’s up to us, we’re at the top of the game in England, hopefully we can be the real driving force behind change in the game.

“Hopefully over the next couple of years we can really drive that forward and make it a really diverse and enjoyable game for everyone involved. Hopefully that can filter down into county cricket and grassroots cricket because the more people wanting to play cricket the better it is going to be for the England side.”

Those who make decisions above the heads of the players are braced for a testing day on Friday, as the England and Wales Cricket Board takes part in a game-wide meeting at The Oval. The governing body’s handling of the ongoing racism crisis, set in train by Rafiq’s allegations against Yorkshire but seemingly spreading wider by the day, is likely to attract major criticism.

Azeem Rafiq gave evidence to the DCMS committee (House of Commons/PA)

The chairs of the 18 first-class counties will meet, joined by representatives of the 21 non-first class cricket boards, the national counties cricket association and the MCC, and it is understood there is some disquiet about the glacial pace and hands-off manner the scandal has been dealt with.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison is also expected to come under fire from some in attendance, following his unheralded appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee shortly after Rafiq.

With the ECB already operating under an interim chair, Barry O’Brien, due to Ian Watmore’s recent departure, Harrison will be hoping he can restore confidence in his leadership of a game which has been in a near constant state of emergency since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cricket governance also remains on the agenda at Westminster, with sports minister Nigel Huddleston raising the prospect of an independent regulator should the current ECB regime fail to deliver on the issue of racism.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison is facing pressure from the county game and politicians (Hollie Adams/PA)

Speaking to the DCMS select committee which had interviewed both Rafiq and Harrison, he said: “With cricket, I’d say the clock’s ticking on this, we might well go down that route as well.

“We’ve had very frank conversations with ECB and others involved in cricket over the last couple of weeks. I have had reassurance that they take the issue seriously and will act.

“Tom Harrison has promised me that with every fibre of his being he will take action here. He knows he needs to act quickly. We will judge them on their deeds and not their words, and if they fail to act appropriately we will not hesitate to intervene further.”

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