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Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance apologises to Azeem Rafiq for 'racist' language

Gary Ballance playing for England in 2017
Gary Ballance playing for England in 2017

Former England batsman Gary Ballance has apologised to Azeem Rafiq for the "racist" language he used towards his former Yorkshire team-mate.

Rafiq has alleged he was subjected to racist treatment by team-mates and officials during his two spells at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018.

Ballance, who remains on the books at Yorkshire despite not playing a first-class match this season, admitted last year he used a racial slur while speaking to Rafiq. 

The pair had a meeting in London this week and after accepting the apology, Rafiq hopes the 32-year-old can now become "part of the solution" in cricket's fight against racism.

"I apologise unreservedly to Azeem for the words I used when we played together," Ballance said in a statement on Thursday.

"I did use unacceptable -- at times, racist -- language. If I had realised how much this hurt Azeem, I would have stopped immediately. 

"That's why I wanted to meet him this week and be clear in person that I intended no malice. That's not an excuse, I realise that the language I used was wrong."

Zimbabwe-born Ballance, who played 23 Tests for England between 2014 and 2017, is currently suspended from international duty as part of the England and Wales Cricket Board's investigation into Rafiq's claims.

Rafiq first made allegations of racism and harassment against Yorkshire two years ago and the club and several unnamed individuals have since been charged by the ECB.

The ECB said the Cricket Discipline Commission panel hearing to look at the cases was expected to take place in September or October.

"From day one of opening up about my experiences, all I ever wanted was acceptance and apologies for what happened," Rafiq said in response to Ballance's apology.

"Gary has been brave to admit the truth and I understand why the mental strain has made it difficult for him to make this apology any sooner.

"Gary must be applauded for his honesty and unreserved apology and must now be allowed to get on with his life.

"Gary got things wrong, so did many people. The main issue is cricket's institutional racism. Gary's courage means he is now part of the solution. I hope he can be allowed to get on with his cricket."

©Cricket World and AFP 2022