LONDON: Bangladesh batsman Tamim Iqbal and Essex have determinedly played down the reasons for his abruptly abandoning a stint with the county, after allegations emerged that his wife was the victim of a racially-motivated incident in Stratford in east London.
A nervous Tamim reported an altercation to Essex Cricket on Monday, the day after his debut in a NatWest Blast match against Kent at Beckenham, and asked that his contract be terminated so the family could return to Bangladesh. Essex immediately agreed to his request, and the county and player chose to play down the incident, with Essex’s chairman John Faragher and chief executive Derek Bowden overseeing a brief statement which requested that Tamim’s privacy be respected.
Essex have made no concerted effort to discover the nature of the incident and it is not thought that any official complaint has been lodged with the Metropolitan Police. Tamim’s family was uneasy about the environment in London even before his arrival in England. Essex put his family up in a luxury apartment in Stratford at his own request – some 35 miles from their Chelmsford headquarters – after agreeing to an eight-match deal.
Last week, through the Freedom of Information legislation, the Independent newspaper obtained police figures that showed an unparalleled rise in hate crimes of 23% compared to the previous year, in the 11 months after the UK voted to leave the European Union. The arrival of Tamim’s family in the UK coincided with protests at Stratford train station against recent acid attacks and Islamophobia in east London. The anti-racism demonstration came after police confirmed that an acid attack in neighbouring Newham was being treated as a hate crime.
There have been conflicting reports, emanating from Bangladesh, about the exact nature of the incident involving Tamim, his wife Ayesha Siddiqa who wears a hijab, and their one-year-old son – it is variously said to have occurred in a Stratford restaurant or while the family was on the street. Tamim, meanwhile, was keen to keep his agreement with Essex and not make public his reasons for returning home. “I want all my fans and well wishers to know that I cut short my season with Essex to come back home early for personal reasons,” a statement on his official Facebook page read. “Some media reported that we were the target of attempted hate crime. This is really not true.
“England is one my favourite places to play cricket and Essex have been entirely gracious even though I had to leave early. I thank all my fans and well wishers for their concern and messages and look forward to going back to England for future matches.”
Essex continued to insist that they will not expand on their brief statement which read: “We wish him all the best and it would be appreciated if Tamim’s privacy is respected during this time.” Whatever the cause of Tamim’s hurried departure, it appears that it will remain officially unreported.