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A dark day for cricket


Former England star Gary Ballance, 31, has admitted to being the Yorkshire player who called Azeem Rafiq, 30, a “P***” in what a club investigation dismissed as “friendly banter”. Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton has since resigned and the English Cricket Board (ECB) has slapped a ban on Yorkshire hosting international matches until it has cleaned up its house.

The racism is in keeping with “horror stories” that come out of Yorkshire, says Tusdiq Din in The Times. The ECB may be shocked: few in Bradford are. Migrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have made the county their home since the 1950s, but parents think their children have to be “twice as good as a white counterpart to succeed”. Are they wrong? “I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals,” Rafiq wrote on social media. “This is about institutional racism.”

The sad thing is Rafiq and Ballance “absolutely were friends”, says George Dobell on BBC Radio 4’s Today. I was the first to interview Rafiq after he made the allegations. He went through a period of trying to behave in ways “that you might describe as western”: he maybe drank more than you would expect a young Muslim man to drink. “The difference came when Azeem stopped trying to fit in.” I hope Ballance receives the help and support he requires – “which was help and support denied by the game to Azeem Rafiq”.

Running in Forrest Gump’s footprints

In September 2016, Liverpudlian vet Rob Pope decided to emulate the epic cross-country run from Forrest Gump. At 38, he was burnt out by his job as a vet and wanted to honour his mother’s deathbed request that he make a difference with his life, says Pope in Becoming Forrest. He nominated a couple of charities and plotted a route that took in landmarks seen in the 1994 film’s seven-minute running montage.

He began his 15,000-mile odyssey, which criss-crossed America five times, by heading west from Alabama and running 40 miles a day. His partner, Nadine, accompanied him for half the journey in a motorhome. The rest of the time, Pope pushed a pram full of kit and provisions. He wolfed down 6,000 calories a day – oatmeal, protein shakes, doughnuts, McDonald’s burgers and “ham salad and catalina dressing sandwiches”. A kindly Texan invited him into his house to use the loo, startled by his Gump-like flowing beard and having watched the film for the first time the night before.

Pope paused on the final crossing to pop back to the UK for the birth of his daughter, Bee, before ending his journey in April 2018 in Monument Valley, Arizona – just like Forrest Gump. He had plodded 15,621 miles over 422 days and got through 33 pairs of running shoes. He still likes a sporting challenge – the 43-year-old recently did 24 Parkruns in 24 hours.