“My family and I are deeply disturbed by the recent allegations levelled against me in the media and the misleading and selective nature the reporting over the last few days. Azeem was more than a teammate. He was also my closest friend and supporter of cricket.

“Throughout this process I have cooperated fully with the independent investigation. I have also been totally honest and transparent with the investigators and the club at all times. Leaked information and allegations were published in the media, which I believe gives a misleading impression about the evidence that was presented during the investigation. Although I didn’t intend to make any public statements, the media reports and journalists who visited my house made it clear that I felt obliged to respond.

To be clear, I regret some of my language choices in my younger years. After hearing all evidence, the independent inquiry accepted that some of the language was used in a friendly verbal attack between friends. This was not meant to offend or cause injury and that there was no malice.

“Given Rafa’s incredibly close relationship over the years, I am saddened it has come this far. Rafa and my first game for Yorkshire was at the same time. We quickly formed a close friendship. He encouraged me play club cricket for Barnsley CC, which was what I did. We also went on many tours together, both with England Performance Programme and Yorkshire, and we always supported and cheered each other on the pitch. We enjoyed drinking and socializing together, and we also shared a lot of our time away from the game.

“On the pitch, we supported each other greatly. Both of us captained Yorkshire at different times, and we supported each other when we were in these roles. Rafa has been a huge supporter and was always there to help me through the highs and lows in my career with Yorkshire and England. I was there to support him through the difficult time of his first release by Yorkshire. It was a joy when he won a new contract with the club and was able to enjoy a second spell with them. He was extremely happy for me when England was selected and I was thrilled to receive his supportive messages. He was always there to support me during difficult times in my career and I am forever grateful to him.

“Because we were such good friends, spent a lot time together drinking, and on nights out, we both said things privately that were not acceptable to each other. According to reports, I used a racial term and I regret it. I don’t want to discredit Rafa by repeating his statements about me, but I must be clear that this was an instance where best friends said offensive words to each other that would be considered inappropriate outside of that context.

“I regret that these exchanges occurred, but at no point did I believe or comprehend that Rafa was in distress.” If I believed that, I would have stopped immediately. He was my best friend in cricket and I loved him deeply. Rafa has never been accused of being reduced to tears, according to my knowledge.

“That does NOT mean that what was shared between us was right or appropriate. It was not. Rafa said things that were unacceptable to me and I did the exact same with Rafa. Rafa was never offended by my words.

‘Rafa was my best friend throughout these indecent comments. I suggested to Rafa that he and his bowling coach travel from Zimbabwe to spend the winter with my family. He lived in my house in Zimbabwe, and spent time with his parents and brothers while he trained in Zimbabwe. He would become close friends with his brother and they stayed together often when my brother was away in the UK. Rafa was always grateful for the love and support he received from his family and he often expressed it to me. I was honored to be invited to his Pakistani wedding, which I unfortunately could not attend.

“I am conscious of how hurtful this racial slur can be and I regret that it was used in immature conversations in my younger years. I’m sure Rafa feels the exact same about some of his comments to me.

“My intention throughout this entire process was to be honest and cooperate in the independent investigation. Recent media reports have made it clear that I am putting my position in public.

“I will not be making any further statements regarding this matter.”