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.

18 responses to “Racist taunts at Andrew Symonds: BCCI caught napping again!

  1. As much I hate racism etc., I think Symonds aggressive behavior has invited crowd’s ire. Symond’s started the whole nonsense with his statements about animal instincts before the series, how he is pissed off by the reception that Indian team got etc. Well, he has no business to complain about how India celebrate T20 victory – it is none of his business. And then he got involved into on field altercation with not only Sreesanth but even likes of Dhoni and Tendulkar also. Crowd just wanted to boo Symonds – I don’t think there is any racial angle to this. For heaven’s sake the West Indies’ team has been visiting for long period of time in India and they have never been subject to any abuse in India because they knew how to behave in India which Symonds does not. He behaves like Gangster with animal instinct and obviously the crowd respond with the noise that his animal instinct understands! Symonds should take some lesson in cultural sensitivity and should not behave as if he is descendants of convict generation (even if he is).

  2. Cric8fan –

    I am sorry, but I don’t agree with what you’ve said. In fact some of your comments are downright derogatory…

    Surely, as Indian cricket fans, we are capable of much better than this. Even if Symonds’ on field behaviour is unacceptable, the crowd’s abuse (racist or otherwise) is just completely and utterly wrong. Make no mistake.

    Justifying it by saying he deserved it, or saying he behaves like a gangster with animal instinct is just appalling…

    I think all of us, as Indians owe Symonds an apology…

    Unfortunately, as Mohan pointed out, the crowd behaviour problem is not isolated to just Indian crowds. There were quite a few racist taunts when India toured Australia the last time around – and these were targeted at the Indian fans in the crowd.

    Doesn’t mean the Indian crowds have to behave the way they did…

  3. Cric8Fan

    I am with Mahesh on this one… As I have said in my posting, there is just no higher moral ground here. The victim in this case is Andrew Symonds and he is owed an unqualified apology by the BCCI and India. While he did not, in my view, contribute to the crime that was perpetrated against him, it could be said that he was perhaps not the best “guest” India has had in the recent past. While that can explain the crime perpetrated against him, it just cannot be used as a lever to condone the crime.

    — Mohan

  4. Well this is case of absolute culture difference. If Aussies hate someone, they express their disapproval by booing.The people in question expressed their disapproval with the monkey antics. Australia cant expect everyone to behave in the same way and this is where culture difference comes. If they dont like it, then let them behave gracefully and i am sure they wouldnt hve got the response that they got

  5. I don’t think India needs to apologize to Symonds. Every sportsperson has to deal with boisterous and critical crowds at some stage in their career.And branding this as racism and expecting apologies is ridiculous.Surely you cannot expect crowds in Kochi and Mumbai to applaud you after having open fights with Sachin and Sreesanth.How many times have we apologised for crowd behaviour during Pakistan matches? Our own team has to take extra security when playing in Peshawar.This is nothing compared to that.The whole attitude of Australian media and a section of ours is as usual over the board.

  6. Blogesh,

    If, as a country we have done something wrong we should apologize. But the problem is, nothing wrong has been done.

    This attitude that we as a nation are wrong should stop. A crowd behaves the way it is influenced, not only in India but in any country in the world. While, sections of Indian population are very racists (just like sections of populations in any country in the world) what happened in Mumbai is not racist by any stretch of imagination.

    I cannot believe any crowd anywhere in the world watching any sport will accept boorish behavior. Sreesanth copped it in India, so can the Malyalis claim the rest of the country is racist?

    Players playing in a public arena have a responsibility. The crowd – anywhere – will voice its displeasure if it believes injustice has been done. In this case we called him a monkey because he behaves like one. Simply because calling someone a monkey is constructed as racist in some corner of the world you cannot expect the Indian population to be suddenly educated about and sensitized. In fact even expecting such a courtesy will be considered stretching your welcome.

    Expecting the Indian population (or any population for that matter) to do something more mature and be 100% politically correct, to put politely brings a smile on my face.

    I guess it is far more easier, considering the current state of maturity of an audience anywhere in the world, for people in the public domain appreciate their position and behave appropriately.

    It is high time, we stop pandering to unreasonable, illogical or plain over the top requests. Reactions like yours certainly won’t help clarifying matters, but serve to confuse it further. If the ICC had even spent a second analyzing what happened, they would have been convinced it is a “cultural misunderstanding”. But jumping the gun and toeing the line simply because somebody complains will surely bring about a counter charge of racism in the true meaning of the word.

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  8. I ll agree with AnilVari on this issue..

  9. Gee, you forgot to nail me for starting the Iraq war and original sin. I look forward to more of your balanced and sensible blogs in future but just try and keep a slight perspective. I wanted to publish the photographer’ s name but he asked to remain anonymous so I described his origin. It was a natural journalistic urge to identify. I seem to have greatly offended you and it makes me wonder why. I am Indophile who loves the country and its cricket. However, I will not stand by and let the BCCI and anybody else deny or attempt to dismiss what was clearly a racist act. I would react even more strongly if it happened here out of pure shame. Everybody needs to take a deep breath on this issue. PS I thought writing about Hanuman and Ganesha displayed cultural sensitivity not the reverse. The latter is a popular icon in my Sydney home and I spent many years reading up on Hindu culture. Perhaps it is an area only Indians are allowed to write on?

  10. Dear Peter

    Thanks for visiting our blog and taking the time to comment on it. Much appreciated.

    I hope you will agree that we have tried to be balanced in our blog. We have criticised the BCCI for its head-in-the-sand approach. We have said that nothing short of an apology to Andrew Symonds will do.

    However, if your photographer wanted to remain anonymous — and that is his right — why not just mention “photographer”? What qualification does “Australian photographer” add to your story other than to perhaps suggest that “an Indian photographer would never have taken such a photograph”!

    I am certainly gladdened to note that you are an Indophile. Your writings certainly did not convey that. So thanks for that clarification (and perhaps that is a needless data point for you too)!

    On the Hanuman issue, my view is that there is sensitivity and trivialisation and the line dividing them is actually quite thin. My view is that the interpretation depends as much on the reader and the context as it does the writer and his frameworks. Different people with different cultural perspectives may well have read your article differently.

    Once again, thank you very much for visiting our blog and we hope that you will continue to visit over the summer — which promises to be an interesting and maybe even a spicy one!

    — Mohan

  11. Peter,

    I am sure you hate racism, love gays and all that cliched stuff. I would love to see you write on racism that is more overt, that arises out of arrogance and this belief that “whites” have evolved more than the “not so whites”. I would love to see you comment on Gillespie’s recent statements, on Ponting’s continued veiled threats which are nothing short of prejudice, or Mcgrath’s sermon to Sreesanth (not much time has passed since he passed sermons to Sarwan). Your reading up on hindu culture might make you a voracious reader, nothing more and nothing else. It is like me saying, I read a lot about Beethoven, therefore I know a lot about his music. For once, you stop lecturing us on when to take to take a deep breath, we have mastered the art of taking a deep breath for centuries now!!!Maybe you missed that part of reading up on hindu culture.

  12. i agree with your views on racism

  13. i agree with your views on racism

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  17. Andrew Symonds made false allegation against Harbhajan

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