Michael Vaughan faces his biggest battle after Adil Rashid’s support of Azeem Rafiq’s racism claim

It will always be regarded as one of the greatest of all Ashes victories. Nothing surely will ever match the scenes in 2005 when the whole country, it appeared, cheered on England to what became a fabled triumph over Australia.

How long ago that must seem to the architect of that magical summer, the captain who will go down in cricketing legend as the man who finally won back the urn after a near 20-year losing run and began an English Ashes renaissance. The legacy of Michael Vaughan threatens to be very different now.

He will be remembered more for being one of the leading figures in the race scandal rocking the English game, unless he can persuade a sceptical public he really did not utter those fateful words: ‘Too many of you lot. We will have to do something about it.’

Michael Vaughan is facing his biggest battle amid accusations of racism while at Yorkshire

Vaughan certainly has a huge job on his hands. For he now has to deal with two other players corroborating the allegations of Azeem Rafiq that will be repeated in parliament on Tuesday.

The intervention of Adil Rashid on Monday could be a game-changer. Here is an England star who has spent his career having as little to do with the media as possible and a man who would surely not get involved in this sorry saga unless he felt strongly about it.

Could three players — Rafiq, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and now Rashid, really have made it up? Or even been mistaken in what they heard?

Unless Vaughan can convince us they are lying, his second career as one of the game’s best pundits is surely over. It is very hard, for instance, to see Vaughan continuing as the cricketing face of the BBC when they are central to the game’s desire to attract a young and diverse audience through the Hundred.

The timing of Rashid’s statement could not be more damaging for Vaughan, either, coming on the eve of Tuesday’s potentially explosive Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing.

He is accused of saying: ¿Too many of you lot here. We will have to do something about that' to Asian players before a 2009 match

He is accused of saying: ‘Too many of you lot here. We will have to do something about that’ to Asian players before a 2009 match

England's Adil Rashid has corroborated the accusation made by old team-mate Azeem Rafiq

England’s Adil Rashid has corroborated the accusation made by old team-mate Azeem Rafiq 

Rafiq will face MPs not only with parliamentary privilege but with the confidence that comes from having the support of his former team-mates.

Vaughan was on the front foot again on Monday, making what was his most vehement denial yet of the allegations against him. Significantly, there were none of his beloved posts on Twitter, where he has so often inadvertently revealed the less likeable and more confrontational side of his personality.

Instead, there was a long, passionate, professional statement sent to the Press Association highlighting the video that was shown repeatedly on Monday on Sky Sports News of the infamous pre-match huddle at Trent Bridge in 2009 at the centre of the storm.

There is Vaughan shaking hands with each of the four players of Asian heritage, who were making Yorkshire history together that day. And there are Rafiq, Rashid, Naved and Ajmal Shahzad, the one player involved who has not backed up Rafiq’s claims, smiling back at the senior player and England legend in their midst.

They do not seem to have taken offence at something that was meant to have been said shortly before this huddle. But then, what were three junior members of the side from a very different background and an overseas player meant to do?

It can be a defence mechanism to laugh off offensive behaviour passed off as banter. And it would have taken a very strong young player to say, ‘Hang on, you can’t say that,’ before a match against Notts in front of a big crowd and the TV cameras.

Rafiq is set to give evidence before a DCMS select committee on Tuesday in Westminster

Rafiq is set to give evidence before a DCMS select committee on Tuesday in Westminster

Vaughan, then, is a symbol of this growing crisis but, with Yorkshire, the ECB and the wider game all bracing themselves for the dirty laundry that will be very publicly washed at Westminster on Tuesday, more damaging revelations emerged to leave cricket reeling.

The evidence of a second player to allege racism at Essex, Maurice Chambers, was certainly grim reading and made it perfectly clear Yorkshire are far from the only county fully implicated in a scandal that throws up more shocking news by the day.

It was Essex, too, who had to effectively force their chairman John Faragher to stand down when it became clear last week that an allegation of racism had been made against him as long ago as 2017, but had been ignored when reported to the ECB.

Yet it should be somehow encouraging for the game that so many victims are being empowered to come forward now that cricket is finally facing up to what can only be described as historic institutionalised racism.

Vaughan is now fighting to salvage his reputation having guided England to Ashes glory

Vaughan is now fighting to salvage his reputation having guided England to Ashes glory

It is hard to see Vaughan continuing as a cricket pundit if he cannot disprove the allegations

It is hard to see Vaughan continuing as a cricket pundit if he cannot disprove the allegations 

And at least Essex, in the form of their new chief executive John Stephenson, are being pro-active and apparently sincere in their desire for justice by tackling the allegations head-on rather than doing what Yorkshire did and burying their heads in the sand.

If only Yorkshire had handled this better at so many turns along the way, since Rafiq’s allegations became public last year, then perhaps cricket would not be in such a huge mess now. And it is in a mess — with much, much more likely to come out before this gets any better.

Michael Vaughan is facing the equivalent of going into bat against Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne on a last-day Test pitch needing 500 to win.

It is a bigger battle than anything he faced in the 2005 Ashes.

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