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…
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.