Eoin Morgan: Serious issues like Azeem Rafiq racism claims must be met ‘head-on’

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Eoin Morgan takes the knee during the T20 World Cup  (Getty Images)
Eoin Morgan takes the knee during the T20 World Cup (Getty Images)

Eoin Morgan is unfussed at attention being directed away from England’s T20 World Cup campaign by Yorkshire’s botched handling of Azeem Rafiq’s racism claims, insisting serious matters such as this “need to be met head-on”.

While England have won all four of their Super 12s games and stand on the brink of a semi-final place in the Gulf, they have slipped under the radar amid an escalating crisis for Yorkshire and cricket in the country as a whole.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has stripped Yorkshire of the right to host international fixtures in a move welcomed by its limited-overs captain Morgan, who insisted affairs of this magnitude cannot take a back seat.

“In matters of an extreme or serious nature like these are, they need to be met head-on,” Morgan said. “For us as a team, that’s exactly what we want to see.

“The (ECB) investigation’s ongoing and live at the moment so only time will tell what happens but I think the actions by the board have demonstrated how seriously the ECB are taking how this has been handled.

“Yes, we want to see the sport in a great light but equally if there’s an issue as serious as this we want it dealt with as well.”

England have taken the knee during this tournament as kit regulations during global events forbid them from wearing the T-shirts they have donned in recent months showing messages of anti-discrimination in a ‘Moment of Unity’.

Morgan’s side are seeking to become the first nation to hold both limited-overs World Cups, having gone all the way in the 50-over edition in 2019, and take on South Africa in their final group game in Sharjah on Saturday.

But Morgan is adamant he places winning competitions second to making lasting change in the country in an England side that features players from different racial and religious backgrounds.

England have taken the knee during all four games at the T20 World Cup (Aijaz Rahi/AP/PA) (AP)
England have taken the knee during all four games at the T20 World Cup (Aijaz Rahi/AP/PA) (AP)

“First and foremost, probably more so for the last two to three years, our culture has been built around inclusivity and diversity,” Morgan said. “It’s actually been quite a strong part of our game.

“For that period of time we have been active about talking and actioning things that show meaningful change. We are very serious about it. We firmly believe that there is no place in our sport for any type of discrimination.

“There is only so much we can do as a team. We have been a part of the significant change that we feel will lead to something that will be bigger than any of our careers or any of the trophies that we win.

“What we do at the moment to try and achieve that, it’s not perfect, but we are making good ground towards change that we want implemented.

“In teams you have to be yourself. It should feel a bit like being at home. It won’t feel like being at home, being around your family, but it should be relaxed, and given that freedom to feel comfortable in your own skin.”

England will be forced to make one change to the formula that has brought them four successive wins when they take on South Africa, with left-arm fast bowler Tymal Mills out of the tournament because of a right thigh strain.

Tymal Mills, right, has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament (Aijaz Rahi/AP/PA) (AP)
Tymal Mills, right, has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament (Aijaz Rahi/AP/PA) (AP)

“I’m gutted for Tymal, he’s been on such a roller coaster of a journey,” Morgan said of a player who made his international comeback at the start of the campaign after four injury-plagued years away.

Hopes are high Mark Wood will be back in contention, having had an injection in his left ankle last week that has precluded his involvement so far, although David Willey, Reece Topley and Tom Curran are under consideration, too.

“When you have quick bowlers at your disposal you really want them to be firing, and I think when it comes to managing them you really need to keep patient,” Morgan added

“Obviously with Tymal missing out, you’re constantly reminded that they’re such huge assets for us, that need to be well looked after.

“We’ve done that with Mark Wood throughout his whole career within this group and we’ll take time if needed to make a call (on Saturday).”

England, meanwhile, have announced assistant coach Graham Thorpe will oversee the Ashes preparation period when the Test specialists and Lions arrive in Australia this weekend.

Head coach Chris Silverwood and assistant Paul Collingwood will head Down Under at the end of England’s T20 World Cup commitments later this month.

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