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.
I remember him saying he needed to know about all religions because it would make him a better leader of men – it typified how his leadership skills and thinking were ahead of his time. On another occasion, I recall him saying “It gets boring if we are all the same”, and that different cultures would make for a stronger dressing room.
We would discuss it regularly, and I used to call him by his Sikh name “Mandeep”. He loved that and when he got runs he would say to me: “The Sikh gods must be happy with me today”. This is what dressing room culture should be about – brotherhood, unity, humour and respect.
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. 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.
It feels like the BBC and BT have taken the easy option by blocking him from broadcasting this winter. 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.
Cricket has serious issues to confront in terms of endemic racism, many of which have been highlighted by Rafiq’s evidence provided to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
But to blacklist one of the best England captains we have produced on the basis of historic and still unproven allegations feels wrong, and a distortion of natural justice.