Racism in cricket: Majid Haq & Qasim Sheikh call for investigation into alleged institutional racism at Cricket Scotland
Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh say they were treated differently by Cricket Scotland because of their skin colour; Cricket Scotland says it will thoroughly investigate any allegations of racism or harassment, and has launched an Equality Action Plan which it hopes will create positive change
By Sahil Jaidka & Luke Shanley
Last Updated: 24/11/21 10:19pm
Scotland's all-time leading wicket-taker Majid Haq claims Cricket Scotland is "institutionally racist" after he and former team-mate Qasim Sheikh opened up about the abuse they suffered during their careers.
The pair have alleged they were treated differently to team-mates due to the colour of their skin and are calling for an independent inquiry into the organisation.
Cricket has been engulfed in a racism scandal initially prompted by allegations made by Azeem Rafiq, who spoke about his experiences of racism at former club Yorkshire.
Rafiq told a parliament select committee that English cricket is "institutionally" racist.
'I was treated like a criminal'
Haq represented Scotland over a 13-year period - making 209 appearances - but failed to play again after posting a race-related tweet during the 2015 World Cup.
The 38-year-old tweeted "always tougher when you're in the minority! #colour #race" after he was not selected for a match against Sri Lanka. Haq was sent home from the tournament following the incident and did not play for Scotland again.
"I was treated like a criminal," Haq said.
"In 2015 I put out a tweet saying it's tougher in the minority. I was on the next flight home, that shows how tough it can be. I felt isolated and I felt I was right, but I was told by the organisation to delete the tweet and apologise. I never did, why should I apologise for something I believe in.
"Over the last six years, that's made me believe in things even more. There needs to be some anonymity for those who are brave enough to speak up.
"I never played again, and that is something I used to love doing. I am still the leading wicket-taker of all time for Scotland.
"Three months later, a white player complained about being left out of a squad and they did a massive U-turn within a day. There were different rules for him and different rules for me.
"A lot of people have asked me if I think Cricket Scotland are institutionally racist - I think they are. An investigation would show that they are.
"There are a lot of failings in the processes and the opportunities Asian cricketers are getting compared to a white player."
Cricket Scotland vows to investigate
Cricket Scotland has told Sky Sports News it will thoroughly investigate and deal with any allegations of racism or harassment but would not discuss individual cases.
The organisation has also launched an Equality Action Plan which it hopes will create positive change.
"Cricket Scotland operates a zero-tolerance policy to all forms of racism and discrimination and condemns racism in all its forms," a statement read.
"We know that there are longstanding issues both in sport and wider society around racism and racial inequalities that still exist and that negatively impact many individuals, and we know that we must play our part in addressing those in our sport.
"Last week we launched our Equality Action Plan, which has been in development for several months.
"An important part of that will be reaching out to all communities to understand their experiences of playing cricket in Scotland, both positive and negative, to better understand those experiences and inform our future actions.
"As announced, we will be appointing an independent expert to run that crucial piece of work and are committed to acting upon its findings.
"We won't discuss individual cases at this stage, but we would re-iterate that any allegations of racism or other forms of harassment - whether recent or historic incidents - that come out of that consultation, or that are reported separately to Cricket Scotland, will be thoroughly and properly investigated and dealt with. We would encourage everyone to engage with those processes."
'For me it's about how we go forward now that is important'
Haq said the treatment he suffered still affects him today.
"I don't think it will ever go away," he said. "I still felt I had a lot to contribute.
"For me it's about how we go forward now is important. The youngsters coming through need to see a pathway, and not be blocked politically. Parents need to see that as well.
"We need more Asian coaches coming in. Not just token Asian coaches, Asian coaches who have also played at the highest level who are not afraid to voice their opinion.
"We need people who will speak their mind and pick the best players. Coaches around Scotland don't have the knowledge or experience I have."
'Let's have an investigation and let's find out the truth'
Like Haq, Sheikh believes his career was brought to an end for speaking out about the treatment he suffered when playing for Scotland.
The 37-year-old has also revealed he has since been targeted for opening up about his experiences of racism.
"I was asked if Scottish Cricket was institutionally racist and I've educated myself on that," Sheikh said.
"My understanding of institutional racism was getting called the 'P word' or getting called other references - I thought it had to be things like that or regular slurs towards you, which never happened on a regular basis.
"However, it's more like unfair treatment. I was 25 years old and had scored back-to-back centuries for my country.
"There were no other 25-year-olds who had delivered those kind of results. I was dropped from the team for two bad performances.
"I tried to get back in and it wasn't happening so I spoke out in the national press.
"What followed was no one spoke to me for years and I never played for my country again after the age of 25.
"I look at some other people who have spoken out and went on to have decorated careers.
"I didn't do anything illegal, I shared my feelings and never played again. That felt unfair.
"Why not conduct an investigation? I've had so many messages from people suggesting they've faced racism. Let's have an investigation and let's find out the truth."
Sheikh claims he has been "targeted for jumping on a bandwagon" following the allegations that have emerged in the wake of Rafiq's evidence.
"I spoke out around 2011, 2012," he said. "This is not something that's just happened.
"I voiced it to the organisation, but I never got a warm response or any response. My punishment was my career was over. I dedicated my life to playing for Scotland.
"I don't think people understand what racism is like if they haven't experienced it, so it's hard for them.
"I don't want all my ex-teammates thinking they acted racist towards me, it wasn't like that. I've got lots of good friends, I feel sad because lots of them are getting really defensive and that shouldn't be what this is about.
"It shouldn't be about attacking individuals, it should be about the whole organisation getting looked at to see what they can do better and move on in a better way.
"Maybe by the next World Cup we might have a few different faces in the coaching team, a couple of diverse figures in there as well which might encourage more people to go for these roles."
'Cricket Scotland are in denial'
Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who has been supporting both players, added: "I think Cricket Scotland are in denial and individuals involved with cricketing in Scotland are still in the dark ages.
"They have failed to take action when individuals have chosen to speak out.
"They have been victimised, they have been excluded. Some of the treatment is deeply shameful.
"It's all very well now that the associations are doing reviews and passing policies and statements, that question I would ask is 'what action have to actually taken to deal with the past? What action have you taken to deal with the racists? What action have you taken to show you genuinely want to eradicate racism?
"Policies are all very well, but they're on paper.
"Cricketing in Scotland, I believe, is institutionally racist. Sanctions are robustly used against people of colour; individuals are not picked to play for the national or local side and there are always excuses.
"You don't see diversity in coaching or on boards. Are they saying people of colour don't have talent? If they do have talent, why are they not selected? Why is there no diversity?
"Why don't they start speaking to the ex-players who were vilified, abused, and humiliated?
"Cricket in Scotland has not faced up to the fact it is institutionally racist, and they are not diverse as a body and they have failed to tackle it."