(Reuters) -Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq has criticised Middlesex County Cricket Club chief Mike O'Farrell's comments attempting to explain English cricket's lack of diversity, saying it was indicative of an "endemic problem" in the sport.
The county cricket chairs of Middlesex, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Glamorgan appeared before a Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) select committee on Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation into cricketing governance.
The committee was formed after a number of players, including Rafiq, alleged they were victims of institutional racism at their clubs.
Speaking before the DCMS committee, O'Farrell suggested that a lack of diversity in English cricket could be attributed to minority communities focusing on other interests.
"The football and rugby world becomes much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community," O'Farrell said.
"In terms of the South Asian community, we're finding that they do not want necessarily to commit the same time that is necessary to go the next step.
"They sometimes prefer to go into other educational fields and then cricket becomes secondary, and part of that is because it's a more time-consuming sport than some others."
Rafiq responded to O'Farrell's comments on Twitter, saying it was a "painful listen".
"This has just confirmed what an endemic problem the game has. I actually can't believe what I am listening to."
"We all love cricket," Rafiq later told Sky Sports. "This narrative that we've been hearing for a long time that Asian cricketers want to go and study, that's because we've not been made to feel welcome in our workspaces.
"If someone does want to do something else, the data out there proves that we have massive representation at grassroots level that just drops off."
O'Farrell apologised for "the misunderstanding" caused by his comments in a statement https://www.middlesexccc.com/news/2022/01/statement-from-middlesex-chair-mike-ofarrell on Middlesex's website.
"I was aiming to make the point that ... cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers, in systematically failing to provide them with the same opportunities that other sports and sectors so successfully provide," O'Farrell said.
Glamorgan chairman Gareth Williams told the committee that the Welsh club's historic lack of diversity was not representative of Cardiff's demographics, saying that racism had prevented players of minority ethnic communities from turning professional in the past.
"I have absolutely no doubt that historically there have been issues of racism in this sport generally, and no doubt in Glamorgan in particular," Williams said.
Williams added that the club was working towards addressing these issues, highlighting the presence of South Asians on the board of directors and in the squad.
"I'm satisfied it's not the position now," Williams said. "Two of the directors are from the British Asian community, they're terrific directors that make a huge contribution.
"We have two of our squad of 22, excluding international players. One is Kiran Carlson, who is the vice-captain of the entire team. We have Prem Sisodiya who's another, I think, Cardiff man."
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris, Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)