Daily Archives: 18 October 2007

Racist taunts at Andrew Symonds: BCCI caught napping again!

Andrew Symonds was at the receiving end of more racist taunts last night in the day-night cricket game against India played at Mumbai.

A photographer captured some of this on camera and a picture is available here.

A day after he was made out as a modern-day equivalent of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey-God, the BCCI has no choice but to admit that they had a problem on their hands. The BCCI has buried its head in the sand and existed in denial for the whole of the last week — as they tend to do, quite expertly, on most issues — with excuses and banalities. Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secertary, went so far as to say, “What the media and Symonds shouldn’t forget is that the Australian crowds are far more dangerous and volatile than their Indian counterparts.

Even if this were true, what does this have to do with the price of fish in the land?

There is a principle at play here: Racisim in cricket in India is not on!

The Indian media has also indulged in counter-allegations on the racism-in-cricket problems that Australia itself faces. But this misses the point!

It may well be true that Australia faces a problem of rascism in its sport. The irony of the timing of the release of an independent report into rascism in Australian sport wasn’t lost on the Indian media. Pot, kettle and black were phrases that were thrown around quite liberally in the Indian media. But that misses the point totally!

The Indian media has also jumped up and down and pointed to the abuse that Muralidharan is subjected to when he visits Australia. It is interesting, however, to note that Peter Young, the Cricket Australia public affairs manager, calls the lack of respect that Muralitharan receives as nothing more than a “boisterous reception” which would be similar to what Chris Rogers (the WA opener) would receive in NSW if he gets Justin Langer’s opening spot ahead of Phil Jacques, the New South Welshman. I am amazed at this analogy and it just goes to show that the BCCI is perhaps not the only organisation that has pefected the head-buried-in-the-sand routine!

The Indian media has pointed out that Daren Lehmann called the Sri Lankan team a bunch of “black c****”.

But all of this misses the point in my view.

The abuse of Andrew Symonds was a disgrace and an embrassment to the country. Let us not forget that India takes immense pride in its diversity and its affirmative action. Whether true equality actually exists in Indian society is a different issue and is a socio-political debate for another time, place and blog! However, it is, at least theoretically a country where there is a seemingly peaceful co-existence of all sorts of people from diverse backgrounds, colours, religions and castes. What was required from the BCCI and the crowd control authorites was affirmative action. Instead of “waiting for a letter from the ICC” or “waiting for an official complaint from Cricket Australia” the BCCI ought to have denounced racisim forthright. By not doing so, they lost the high moral ground. No moral high-ground exists in this issue anyway and people clamouring to claim it have got it all wrong!

Racism is wrong and if not an apology, some action was warranted. Anything else, lacks grace or decency or morality. The BCCI has done a great disservice to Andrew Symonds and all cricketers, irrespective of their race, colour, religion or caste. Period.

Racism should not be tolerated. It needs to be stamped out. The BCCI should adopt — and be seen to adopt — a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to rascism.

This time, as with many others in the past, they have sadly missed the boat. The BCCI is now peddling fast to catch up. However, as a friend of mine always used to say, “there is no point in trying to board the train after it has left the platform“!

India may have a new problem on its hands that is surfacing. And the BCCI needs to do something about it — or, like Cricket Australia, be seen to be doing something out of it. This is an issue that requires a thorough investigation and a report from an independent International authority like the Human Rights Commission.

The Australian media has, in my view, got it wrong too.

Peter Lalor writes in The Australian with a liberal dose of cultural insensitivity — but then, that is his style!

It will not help if countries like Australia take an aggressive and holier-than-thou posture on this issue! Such an approach will not help either and that is what the Peter Lalors of the world will not understand.

An aggressive, holier-than-thou, finger-pointing approach (let us just call it a LALOR) was adopted in the umpire-bias issue where the root of the problem was actually one of quality and not (predominantly) one of bias! Moreover, at the time, there was as much a perception of bias in Australian umpires in the minds of non-Australian players (for example) as there was in umpires in countries like India and Pakistan in the minds of players from the rest of the world! Rather then be continually battered and bashed with a string of insensitive Lalorisms, Pakistan took a strong lead in that issue by appointing “neutral” umpires in a Test match when none was needed. Now, that has become the norm and every Test match is officiated by umpires from a panel. When cricket needed affirmative action on that issue, the ICC sat on its fingers and collected nothing more than ring-marks on their backsides! While there was an abundance of crude Lalorisms, Pakistan had adopted a proactive posture and fixed the problem! Affirmative action is needed; not Lalorisms.

Once again the Laloristic route was adopted in the match-fixing issue. Indeed, I remember the Australian media laughing away the whole issue as a problem that afflicted only the sub-continent. Once again, the initiative was taken by the police in India. The Lalorites were busy brushing stuff under the carpet from where the ghosts of past misdemeanors of the likes of Cronje, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne emerged. The Lalor-mode did not work then either.

I hope that everyone realises that cricket does not need to do a mere Lalor on racism.

For example, most reports in the Australian media have qualified that the photograph in yesterdays’ match was taken by “an Australian photographer“. The word “Austrlaian” does not add anything to the story. Indeed, if anything it could suggest “there is no way an Indian photographer would have taken such a photograph“. This denies that there is a global problem on hand that needs a global solution. Laloristic solutions are arrogantly myopic and just will not work!

At the same time, the BCCI should not stick its head in the sand and deny that there is a problem. It has to be eradicated through education programs, proper policing and affirmative action.

Players should also receive coaching on the cultural sensitivities that form part of the landscape when they are guests of a country. It is always touchy to ask if the victim contributed to the crime that was perpetrated. And yes, there was a crime of racism that was perpetrated by a few goons in the crowds at Vadodhara and Mumbai against Andrew Symonds. The victim should never be questioned and can never be blamed for crimes that were carried out against him/her. However, the question has to be asked if Symonds acted as a proper guest in a country that he was visiting? Personally, I don’t think so. And while that does not condone the crimes against him, it certainly points to the fact that players do need to receive proper counselling and education on the “dos and donts” that form an integral part of being a cultural ambassador/representative as well as a guest.

My feeling is that the BCCI needs to act and the time is now.