Devon Malcolm was one of the most popular figures in cricket who took more than 1,000 first-class wickets in a 20-year playing career

Credit: PA

Former England international Devon Malcolm is leading calls for the ECB to commission an independent inquiry into long-standing issues of discrimination. 

Malcolm joined Lonsdale Skinner, the chairman of the African Caribbean Cricketers’ Association, in urging the England and Wales Cricket Board to appoint the QC-led review to address entrenched discrimination in cricket.

The issue has erupted after two former umpires accused the board of institutionalised racism.

John Holder, who stood in international cricket, and Ismail Dawood, a former Yorkshire cricketer who was on the umpires’ reserve list until 2004, said they believe black and Asian officials have been held back by ‘cronyism’ and racism. They used Malcolm as an example.

The pair issued a statement through the Stump out Racism action group alleging there had “been a definite policy of only employing whites” for umpiring positions. Holder and Dawood also said, “there has never been in history any BAME officials in positions such as umpires’ mentors, umpires’ coaches, pitch liaison officers, cricket liaison officers and match referees”.

Dawood called for an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission saying he had "absolutely no trust or confidence in the ECB" and that the organisation is a "complete mess”. 

In response, Skinner reiterated his view the ECB needs independent help to change entrenched discrimination in cricket.

The former Surrey player had called on the ECB to appoint an independent black QC to investigate historic racism earlier this summer but his plea fell on deaf ears with Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, saying at the time: “I don’t agree with his view at all. We are genuinely understanding and this is something we are committed to resolving and we will work with any organisation that wants to work constructively with us.”

But Skinner believes the job is too big for Harrison to do alone and is sceptical of change having seen previous reports on racism in cricket in 1999 and 2004 end in blind alleys. “I don’t think they are going to listen again," he said. "My contention is that they need an independent body. They cannot do it on their own. I am not disputing their intentions but the kind of job that needs to be done will lead to them (ECB) being enemies of the counties. It is a structural change needed. If they were to go into the counties and tell those folks they have to give up different things for ethnic minorities they are not going to be kind to them.

“Mr Harrison said he did not need it. I was trying to let Mr Harrison know he does not have to put his neck on the line. If he gets an independent body to do it and they come up with a recommendation it would not be him being Mr Nasty. The job will mean shifting so many things, I would rather have an independent body if I was him. An independent body will go out, do their review and make their recommendations and the chief executive can say he is implementing their demands rather than saying this is what I want done. He thinks he can do it. But when you are a part of an organisation that has not implemented what was recommended to be done in the past then you are going to struggle to do it. You are also part of the problem.”

Skinner hopes to meet Harrison next month and the ECB will announce a string of anti-racism initiatives after its board meeting next week.

Malcolm, one of the most popular figures in cricket who took more than 1,000 first-class wickets in a 20-year playing career, was knocked back for the second time when he tried to pursue a career as an umpire in 2010.

In 2010, he told Telegraph Sport how he hoped to be one of several former players fast-tracked into an umpiring career. He passed his exams but his application went nowhere. This was at the same time as Martin Saggers, another former England bowler, was hoping to be fast-tracked by the ECB. A decade later, Saggers is on the ICC’s list of international umpires while a black or Asian umpire has not been appointed to a full-time list by the ECB since 1992.

“When I finished playing cricket I made some enquiries at ECB about how I could get started as an umpire,” Malcolm told Telegraph Sport on Tuesday. “I was told at the time there was no chance. The list was chock a block with umpires and it would be three or four years for it to change. Five years later I went back. I took a part of my umpiring exams which I went through pretty well. Obviously I thought they would be more receptive second time around and the fact no black umpire had been appointed by ECB since 1992. 

“But I got knocked back again. I was told the waiting list was too long. Not long after that, other guys got the opportunity to apply and were given the route to become a first-class umpire. You look at the whole thing and think ‘was it deliberate?’”

Malcolm sees at first hand the problem. He travels the country watching his son, Jaden, play for the Northants academy and says he never sees another black boy.

“I have been travelling with my son since he was nine and now he is almost 15 and I never see another black boy. It is crazy. Surely he is not the only one. What is stopping black kids playing cricket? Is it the cost? Is it the way pathway systems work? You have to be on a county pathway system or you have no chance. These things have to be addressed so the kids participate in the game we love. It is closed shop at the moment. 

“The best way to change is through an independent inquiry. I know Tom Harrison’s heart is in the right place but you can’t investigate yourself properly and correct your own work. He wants to do the right thing but an independent inquiry is the best way to go if you want to be honest and look at the past to learn how to encourage youngsters to get back playing this lovely game.

“If you go for a black QC that is fine by me but you want someone who has a clear mind and is independent. If it is a black QC, fantastic, but as long as it is independent and they get all the facts and put findings out there, then fantastic.”

The ECB intends to make more announcements next week about its anti-racism policies following work this summer led by Harrison.

An ECB spokesperson said: “We will not tolerate racism. Since 2015 we have made real progress across many areas to become a more inclusive and diverse sport, including implementing our targeted action plan to engage South Asian communities, introducing the Rooney Rule for elite coaching appointments and providing training for staff and reforming the way we recruit. Equality is at the heart of our game-wide strategic plan, Inspiring Generations, which is designed to make cricket a game for everyone.

“However, we fully recognise we have a long way to go to drive out discrimination from our sport. Alongside the learnings and the action we have already taken in this space through this summer, the ECB holds its November Board meeting next week where our continued work around Inclusion and Diversity will be discussed and further actions agreed.”