Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald

I wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald in response to this article on Brahmins in the Indian cricket team! Thought I would share…

Dear Editor

I read with some dismay, Andrew Stevenson’s article “A class act? Opinions differ” in The Sydney Morning Hearld, 5 January 2008. In this article, the writer talks about the influence that Brahmins have on Indian cricket.

For a start this article seems misplaced in Australia, a country that has always advocated from high pedestals that politics, religion and sport should not mix! Yet, every time a cricket team from India visits these shores, we find the inevitable article on muslims in the Indian team or christians in the Indian team! I thought that we had seen the last of these puerile attempts to fashion a story where none existed. However, Stevenson’s article came as a timely reminder to me that it is perhaps the increasing diversity in Indian cricket teams that continues to confound and bewilder the common Australian journalist? I for one certainly do not care if Anil Kumble is a Brahmin or a Jat or a or a Muslim or a Kshatriya. I care that he plays well when he dons the India colours. I am certainly surprised that Andrew Stevenson cares whether a player is a Brahmin or a Muslim.

Secondly, the article has numerous galling errors that do need to be pointed out.

Stevenson talks about the boos that left-handed batsman Vinod Kambli got when he batted and hypothesises that it is because Vinod Kambli is from a lower caste. I can remember only one instance when Vinod Kambli was ever booed and that was in the semi-final of the 1996 World Cup. In that match, several Indian players were booed. Having said that, I will admit that I have not watched every match that Kambli played. However, here is news for Stevenson. Probably the most booed cricketer in Indian cricket was Ravi Shastri. Sunil Gavaskar has been booed too — several times. So also Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Why? Even Sachin Tendulkar has not been spared an odd boo or two by the crowds. Stevenson’s own article indicates that Shastri, Gavaskar, Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar are Brahmins — not that anyone would care.

What is more galling is the internal inconsitency in the article itself. Early on in the article, Stevenson casts M. S. Dhoni, the Indian wicketkeeper as a “lower caste” and then, at the end of the article, he categorises Dhoni as a Rajput. Since when are Rajputs from the “lower caste”? Rajputs form the upper/ruling caste and in days gone by the son of a king would be referred to as raja-putra (son of a king) and hence the name of this group of people. Let’s get the facts and research right please?

The fact that R. P. Singh has been cast in Stevenson’s article as a Brahmin will come as news to the Indian fast bowler and may get him scurrying to the medical records to verify his lineage! My understanding is that R. P. Singh is a Rajput too — unless of course, Stevenson has access to information that R. P. Singh has switched parents lately!

Stevenson quotes Srivijayan Anand who penned an article titled ‘The Retreat of the Brahmin’, in the Outlook magazine. Stevenson writes, “Siriyavan Anand, a Dalit (the caste formerly called untouchables), has written provocatively and critically of the Brahmin domination”. I have read Anand’s well researched and well written article. While Anand may have written provocatively and critically of Brahmin domination, I am reasonably certain that Anand is not a Dalit. I am most certain that Anand is, indeed, a Brahmin himself! Perhaps Stevenson assumed, wrongly, that because Anand had written provocatively, he must be a non-Brahmin. Perhaps Stevenson needs reminding that diversity of opinion is tolerated in India?

Caste is a difficult topic to deal with even when handled by Indians in the know. That does not necessarily mean that Stevenson should be reigned in from writing about it. However, its place in a discussion on sport is highly questionable, especially if the accompanying research is immature.


Mohan Krishnamoorthy
Melbourne, VICTORIA

12 responses to “Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald

  1. “It seems to confirm my feeling that Australia is the most racist country in the world. What else would you expect from a bunch of people who were placed there for committing crimes on humanity. All caucasians in that country including cricketers have crime in their blood folks with a tendency to harm people. Too bad it has affected sports as well, although not surprising. I fear for the people in Afghanistan and other countries where the Australian army (bandits) are fighting. ”

    I suppose if Stevenson can write an article like that being a journalist that he is, I have full freedom to write a “well researched” set of comments like above.

  2. Anand (Stefan Anand) of Outlook Magazine is a confirmed Brahmin hater and spews out venom. He is a charlatan and not be confused as any scholar on a complex topic of caste system in India. On some other non-cricket topic, Outlook magazine was sued in UK they had to retract their words and reimburse for the legal fees of the litigants. So much for depending on Outlook magazine’s perspectives. There is so much nonsense that goes on in the name of “secularism” nowadays.

    Instead of caste, I would say – In India Cricket is a city based sport. Rural players do not have much a chance to succeed for various reasons – lack of infrastructure, coaching, exposure, state selector support, connections which is very important …. So, rural players often hang up their shoes. Kapil Dev, Dhoni are some of the handful of rural players who have made it.

    Much maligned Greg Chappell wanted to set up the infrastructure in rural India to get infuse talent from the rural areas.

  3. Good for you.

    Can that author be sued?

  4. Thank you Mohan for writing this. I hope this gets published in SMH. I had read the original piece and was left fuming specially in conjunction with all the horrendous umpiring gaffes.

  5. I am writing in reference to the article that published on SMH on 5th january titled -A class act? Opinions differ
    Well thank you your news paper has improved my general knowledge because i did not have any idea of caste of memebers of Indian team
    Well Mr Stevenson to begin with I am not a bramhin( But I am Indian who is deeply hurt and tramatised by your article )
    I would like to ask the write what,s the purpose of article? Do you want to play the dirty game of divide and rule? Poor Indians have enough of selfish politicians rasing caste issue . When politicians do this they want to win the votes of innocent poor people. What,s your purpose? Do you want a Civil War in India. It,s an Era of globalisation and competaion and let,s not play the cheap tactics. It should be left for Indians to decide or you think that you being the superior Country( Race) have a right to interfere in Developing countries ( inferior race)issues.
    And i would like to ask the honourable Editor of Smh how would you feel if somebody ask you that why in so called multicultural Australia there are no Asian, no Middle eastern or Indigenous people.
    Any person with intact thought process will not compare Vinod Kambli and Sachin tendulkar on the basis of the caste. ( Most of indians only knew that they are from Mumbai and did not know their caste until they read your article)
    And probably you need some mathematical and statistics lesson as well because if majority of people in India are from Lower caste then the mojority in Mumbai Crowd should be from Lower caste as well and they should be cheering Kambli then ( because in your opinion no body cheers for India in India )
    Dear Mr Stevenson, I sincerely, honestly and respectfully invite you to a discussion because you need to know about real India and real problems.


  6. Re: Andrew Stevenson’s article, “A Class Act? Opinions differ.” published on 5/1/08.


    Here is my letter to the Sydney Morning Herald: (which they did not publish)

    Stevenson suggests that caste plays a role in who plays cricket for India. He begins with the conclusion of ‘Brahmin domination’ and is highly selective with his supporting evidence. A factual analysis would reveal that of the 16 contracted players, more than half come from non-Brahmin castes. Moreover, the head of the BCCI, Sharad Pawar, is not a Brahmin, neither are 4 out of 5 members of the selection committee. Stevenson asserts Vinod Kambli’s caste was the reason for his omission from the side. No mention is made of his off-field shenanigans that cost him dearly. Caste was used effectively as part of the British system of ‘divide and rule’ and is part of the Indian National Congress party’s strategy of vote bank politics. Fortunately, the evidence is overwhelming that Indian cricket, like Australian cricket, remains based on a meritocracy. Or is social stratification the only reason for just one player of Aboriginal extraction wearing the baggy green in the past 130 years?

    Other notable errors by Stevenson:

    No mention is made of the (non-Brahmin) Muslim players and Indian team regulars, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, and Munaf Patel or of Virender Sehwag, a Jat. To his credit, Stevenson does correctly identify Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh as non-Brahmin. R.P Singh is incorrectly described by Stevenson as a Brahmin, whereas he is a Thakur/Rajput. Stevenson also errs in calling S. Anand a Dalit; he is a Tamil Brahmin.

  7. Suggesting that being a brahmijn makes it easier to get inot the India team is aking to suggesting that being Anglo-Saxon and Protestant makes it easier to get into Australian team.

  8. incidentally- another factual error in the article: yuvraj singh is sikh. The only difference between harbhajan and yuvraj is that the former chooses to wear a turban, whilst the latter does not.

  9. I also sent a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald condemning this article. Apart from the inaccuracies (pointed out in this blog and responses) is a blatantly racist comment in the article that the Indians are poor runners and fielders because of their caste! (This comment in Andrew’s article was made by Siddharth Vaidyanathan who is from Cricinfo). He says that those in the so called “upper caste” are less athletic as deft. I asked Andrew to explain Sachin’s running between the wickets or Kumble bowling long spells at age 37 or the deft touch of Azharuddin, Jaffer and Pataudi. In the US, calling an African American as “Athletically inclined” is a racist comment in itself. Similarly calling a person “Not athletically inclined” based on Caste is also racist. I asked Andrew whether his own article was subtly racist.

    Today I got a response from Sydney Morning herald and got a reference number in case I wish contact again.

    “Your comments have been forwarded to Andrew Stevenson.”

    Thea & Justine

  10. I am a second generation British-Asian who has been brought up in a British Education system and was oblivious to ‘caste’ until a visit to India opened my eyes to the influence over all walks-of-live so I applaud Andrew Stevenson’s article and he is just and right for writing this article as it has complete truth in it. This problem of caste goes FAR beyond the issue of cricket, India has and always will be a country divided by its past where it was divided and conquered. Great article Andrew Stevenson, I applaud your research.

  11. tell it like it is

    Can it be mere coincidence that Australia manages to win several decisions (including many key ones at crucial stages of the game), either when bowling or batting when the opposition is India and the umpire is Bucknor? I am sure Australia are the beneficiaries against other opposition too when other umpires are standing, due to a combination of their finely tuned unappealing appealing methods and umpiring errors brought on by Aussie pressure tactics and expert psychology. Bucknor has rightly been removed (and not a minute too soon) from umpiring in the next Test. He has brought this upon himself by his appalling decisions which a county umpire would not have made. If you bought some apples and spotted a bad one, you would have no hesitation in tossing the imperfect one out. You would not be thinking about the possible smear to the reputation of apples in general, neither would you stop eating apples. Likewise, here you have an umpire whose competence has been shown up bigtime. Surely the last thing you want is to ignore his recurring mistakes so that he can go on committing more errors in the future. And people aren’t going to stop watching matches just because he has been ditched either. If the wrongful decisions of an umpire (Bucknor or anyone else) are constantly affecting the outcome of important Test matches (whoever the contestants may be and wherever the games are being played), surely it is in the interests of the game to remove that official so that the final results of all contests are a fair reflection of what has actually transpired on the pitch. And surely Australia would prefer to win games without the help of dubious decisions or are they incapable of doing so?


    These indian writers who r talking about austrailia that it s a most racist country. firstly they would see themselves that what there condition.had they got rid of castism in indian .
    i think india is the worst country i have ever seen in this case.i wanna tell to indian writers and even to people of india that whats the reason that india is not progressing.the reason is castism that still stays in the mind of upper class people.and we can notice the other countries which have no place for castism are progressing more than us in sports also we can see indians r not giving chance to the lower caste people whereas in other countries there is no place for racism left as you can see that in most of the football teams there are plenty of blacks instead of white.but in india only brahmins jats khatris.i wanna tell to all the people that all of you r saying to lowert caste people DALITS but they originally are called CHAMARS

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