Former England left-arm spinner Monty Panesar has described the “blacklisting” of Michael Vaughan by the BBC as “unethical”, adding that it is “a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process”.
Panesar’s comments come after Vaughan was removed from the BBC’s coverage of the upcoming Ashes, after he was named in Yorkshire’s report into racism at the club, sparked by allegations made by Azeem Rafiq. Rafiq claims that Vaughan told four Yorkshire players of Asian heritage, “There’s too many of you lot. We need to do something about it.” Vaughan denies the claim, but Adil Rashid and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan have supported Rafiq’s version of events.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Panesar, who took 62 wickets in 18 Test matches under Vaughan’s England captaincy, said he did not believe that the former batter was a racist, adding that he “only experienced positive things with him”.
“Nobody disputes the gravity of the allegations made by Rafiq, even if the ones about Vaughan are at the lower end of the scale, and they need to be properly investigated,” wrote Panesar. “Equally, the fact that this alleged incident took place 12 years ago means that it must be unlikely Rafiq’s claims will ever be proven.
“I have already said that I absolutely do not believe Michael Vaughan is racist. He was my captain when I played for England and I only experienced positive things with him.”
The former left-arm spinner went on to explain how Vaughan “always got the best out of me and several other cricketers from different backgrounds”, and “only ever wanted the best possible England team regardless of race or religion”.
“When I first attended an England training session Vaughan told the media and fellow colleagues: ‘Monty is a breath of fresh air in this England dressing room’,” Panesar wrote. “He enjoyed how I approached the game, and celebrated wickets – in fact, he actively wanted me to do it. My energy and passion for playing for England resonated with him.
“He always got the best out of me and several other cricketers from different backgrounds, and would make the point that he only ever wanted the best possible England team, regardless of race or religion.
“That’s not to say he wasn’t interested in my background – he was, but only in a positive way. He was keen to know about my Sikh beliefs and how they had shaped my values and upbringing.”
Regarding the backlash facing Vaughan after his alleged racists comments, Panesar questioned why there have been no others come forward alleging racism against Vaughan, while clarifying that he was not calling Rafiq “a liar”.
“I cannot reconcile the man I know with the one who has been the subject of these allegations, and it is striking to me that no other players – either from Yorkshire or England – have come forward to make claims about his behaviour,” Panesar wrote. “If he was a racist, surely we would have heard from other players?
“I am not saying Rafiq is a liar or that there were no deep-rooted problems at Yorkshire during his time at the club. I know Vaughan would be the first to admit he could have done more as a senior player and advisor to Yorkshire to clamp down on that culture, but that doesn’t make him a racist, and does not mean he deserves to see his career and reputation torn apart.”
The BBC has said that Vaughan will not be part of their Ashes coverage.
“While he is involved in a significant story in cricket, for editorial reasons we do not believe that it would be appropriate for Michael Vaughan to have a role in our Ashes team or wider coverage of the sport at the moment,” the organisation said in a statement.
BT Sport are also reportedly reviewing their coverage of the Ashes due to the allegations facing Vaughan. They were due to use host broadcaster Fox’s commentary, but are now considering switching to Channel 7’s feed as Vaughan is set to appear as a commentator on Fox.
“It feels like the BBC and BT have taken the easy option by blocking him from broadcasting this winter,” wrote Panesar. “The BBC say they do not want him commenting on a story in which he features, but that should not stop him analysing the Ashes.”