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New Zealand-England series

Williamson hopes for 'healing' in Yorkshire racism row


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New Zealand captain Kane Williamson hopes there will be "healing" at his former team Yorkshire on the eve of a third Test against England that was almost moved from the county's Headingley headquarters because of a racism row.

Pakistan-born former off-spinner Azeem Rafiq first raised allegations of racism and bullying in September 2020, related to his two spells at Yorkshire.

Rafiq gave evidence to a parliamentary committee last year, sparking mounting pressure on Yorkshire over their previous failure to take any disciplinary action.

That eventually led to a mass clear-out of senior boardroom figures and coaching staff.

The England and Wales Cricket Board also threatened to withdraw lucrative internationals from Headingley unless changes were made.

Reforms promoted by new chairman Kamlesh Patel staved off what could have been a financial disaster for Yorkshire.

But the issue is far from concluded, with ECB disciplinary charges laid against the club and "a number of individuals", whom officials have yet to name.

Last month, former Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale won a claim for unfair dismissal, leaving the club facing the prospect of paying compensation.

Williamson, who played for Yorkshire as an overseas signing from 2014 to 2018, was non-committal when asked if he had witnessed specific incidents of racist abuse during his time at the club.

But the batsman said he hoped some good would emerge from Rafiq's testimony.

"It's been incredibly sad to see what's unfolded," said Williamson. "I can only hope that something positive comes out of it and the awareness that it's created to move forward in a positive manner.

"There is no space for racism or discrimination in sport or society. I was here for a few brief stints and enjoyed my time at Yorkshire. 

"There were some issues that were made aware more recently and you can only hope that there is healing.

"There's been a huge amount of awareness throughout the whole world, efforts to continue that awareness and make it a more inclusive place, whether in sport or other work places."

Asked about the racism issue, England captain Ben Stokes said his side understood they had "a responsibility on the field, as well as off the field".

Stokes' men will aim to sweep the three-Test series, having won both previous matches by five wickets, when the clash starts in Leeds on Thursday.

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