Category Archives: Racism

Sledging – bind or be blind?

The two greatest rationale and philosophy of our times, capitalism and democracy, are based on the idea that individuals, through their actions based on self-interest, will drive forces towards the most beneficial state for inviduals and/or society as a whole. In extending this thinking to the cricketing field and the current controversy over sledging, is it not best that the cricketers themselves decide what is acceptable and not acceptable to them, through their actions on the field, instead of expecting an external body such as ICC to define it for them? This thinking takes the exterme opposite view of what Harsha Bhogle tries to recommend in his article in The Times of India.

My sincere opinion is that cricketers should be allowed to use sledging, without any constraints, irrespective of how offensive it is. Most people take offense because they might feel ill-equipped in the approved forms of retaliation. In the newly recommended open environment, one can use whatever means one has, to retaliate. In a bizzare way, nothing will eventually be offensive to anyone, since its free for all. I look at it as a positive development in line with the ongoing changes that cricket has embraced in Twenty20, IPL and Technology.

Also, with every control that has been vested in the hands of the ICC, there have been perceptions of inconsistency and impotence felt by stakeholders of the game across the globe. In the interests of the game and a practical step forward, I feel its best that the players are let loose on each other in the center, so that the public is relieved of the after shocks. This brings to an abrupt end, months of debate and platitudes over whether someone or some society is racist or not, whether a certain person was as severely punished as another etc. I am positive that with each sledging act in the field, players will yell the choicest of abuses at each other without any interruptions from any players or officials, and when the energies are exhausted in that act, each will take their stance to bat or bowl or field the next ball and the game will move on.

– Bharath

In a perfect World!

In Mohan’s earlier post, ‘Deadlocked Australia v India (2007-2008): Where does it all go now?’ he mentioned that all parties in this drama need to take up the responsibility. While I totally agree, the one single event that has caused this affair to reach boiling point is obviously Mike Proctor’s mind boggling decision on Harbhanjan Singh. What was he thinking? Did he expect to be applauded for handling the situation in a fair and professional manner. What a joke.

The Indians felt that the Harbhajan incident was adding insult to injury and quite rightly so. There wouldn’t have been such a stand-off but for Proctor’s decision. For all we know, the Indians may have actually agreed to play the Perth test ‘under protest’ for allowing Steve Bucknor to officiate and carried on.

The law is simple, innocent until proven guilty. Here, there was no proof. Nothing heard on the microphone or camera, just one’s word against the other. Which begs the question What are the criteria for the ICC to choose match referees? What qualifications are required? Surely, they need not be trained lawyers but should at least know when a situation is out of their league and need to be referred to a bigger panel or commission. I honestly think the ICC should take up a big chunk of the blame for the following:

Allowing a 61 year old to stand up to one of the most demanding jobs in a cricket field –

In an ideal world a much younger and fitter umpire like a Simon Taufel or an Aleem Dar could have ensured that the Indians didn’t get a raw deal and hence no umpiring controversy would have marred this otherwise high quality Test.

Not adequately training match referees to handle sensitive cases –
Again, in a ideal world, Proctor would have had the training and perhaps more commonsense to say that he did not have enough evidence to make a decision, but the allegation was serious enough to be handled by a qualified professional panel.

But then in a ideal world (atleast for Indian fans), India would have won the Sydney Test after taking a first innings lead of 300 runs!

On that note, here is a well written article that appeared on The Hindu

Vish

Interesting interviews with Jim Maxwell and Harsha Bhogle

I came across a couple of interesting interviews with two respected cricket commentators who are currently part of the ABC Grandstand team – Jim Maxwell and Harsha Bhogle.

– Jim Maxwell : Video link and transcript

– Harsha Bhogle : Audio link

In addition, you can also listen to Cricinfo’s Siddartha Vaidyanathan’s views as well as Peter Lalor’s interview on ABC

Vish

ICC’s code of conduct

As Mohan pointed out, a racism charge has been laid on Harbhajan Singh. This is the clause on which the charge has been laid –

Using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, gender, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.

Anyone interested in reading the  complete ICC’s code of conduct for players and team members, can read it here.

-Mahesh-

An interview with Peter Lalor (Part I)

During the recent ODI series in India between India and Australia, Peter Lalor [See picture to the left, picture source, “The Australian“] has been in the news in India and elsewhere – perhaps even for the wrong reasons. Peter Lalor is a respected writer on cricket for “The Australian”. He is a passionate supporter of the Australian cricket team and is fervent enthusiast for the way Australia plays its cricket. He has been writing about cricket for a long time. However, he shot into prominence in the consciousness of the Indian public and Indian media because of his open and direct criticism of BCCI’s handling of racism taunts that Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds received from crowds in Vadodhara and Mumbai in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia and India.

Following this, Peter Lalor has been derided and lampooned in the Indian media and on blogs that carry Indian cricket content. He was also needlessly – in our view – branded an insensitive racist in some quarters of the Indian media. Some of this criticism was, we felt, way over the top. We, at i3j3cricket.wordpress.com, have been consistent in denouncing the ugly face of racism in India, while acknowledging that it is not a problem that only India faces. We did also, however, have a go at some of Peter Lalor’s views.

On his return from India, Peter Lalor took the trouble to visit this blog and commented on it.

We thought we would use the opportunity to talk to Peter Lalor – to get his views on cricket, Australian cricket, racism, sledging and a bevy of other things. If nothing else, we wanted to ensure that we did our bit to understand Peter Lalor, the man and his views.

Some of Peter Lalors’ articles are available here

i3j3: Tell us something about Peter Lalor, the person. Where were you born? Where do you live? Where did you study? Your cricket/sporting past?

Peter Lalor: Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. I was born in Bendigo, a central Victorian town where I played cricket simultaneously for the junior and senior sides until I was 17. I retired [from cricket] when I went to Melbourne University as I had to work weekends to pay the rent. Cricket was the richer for my absence.

I now live in Sydney with my wife and two children who I am proud to say have learned to love the local Indian cuisine despite being only 9 and 12. They have been subject to years of their father’s obsession with all things from that region and grew up eating the roti and raita from their parents’ thali-s, before graduating to curries.

Our family goes to Australian Rules football matches in winter and tries to have a thali at a restaurant near the SCG before most games.

I spent almost two years in India as a younger man, falling in love with the country from the time my feet first touched a Benares road. I have travelled far and wide and often dreamed of living there.

i3j3: How and where did you start writing? And how did you start writing about cricket?

PL: I’ll take you up on one issue in your generous introduction. I have been writing about cricket on and off for some years, but have rarely been a dedicated cricket writer. More your drop in and out type. My first Test series in “cricket writer” capacity alone was 2004.

I have recently rejoined Malcolm Conn as a cricket writer on the paper. Until then I wrote for all sections of The Australian newspaper.

I was always called on to do specialist jobs in the past and that often included covering things like Steve Waugh’s last Test, his 100 at the SCG the year before, David Hookes death, the Ashes 2006-07 and Shane Warne’s complex failings.
The Hookes piece and a number of others were published in a book and a recent magazine piece on Ponting won the Australian Sports Commission Award.

i3j3: In your writings, you come across to us as a passionate fan of the Australian cricket team. Where do you derive that passion from?

PL: Forty years of being a fan are hard to overcome in a couple of years writing, but I would defend my professionalism by saying that when you cover a team as good as Australia you have to laud its achievements and by contrast you become very aware of where other teams fail to match up.

However, I would hope that when Australia plays badly I will be as honest about their failings. Time will tell.

i3j3: Are you passionate about any other team in world cricket today? Why?

PL: No. As I said all other teams fall short of the standard set by Australia in Test and One Day Internationals.

However, I will say that the achievement of Dhoni’s [India] team at the T20 was wonderful and I sincerely hope he can use that to build a good side for the longer forms of the game. The signs are positive but the hurdles are enormous.

I suppose I support India as a second team out of love for the country and admiration for Sachin [Tendulkar] and have to admit that my son and I cheered [India] to victory over England this year.

i3j3: How did it feel when you returned to Australia after the India-Australia ODI tour to learn that you were being branded as a racist?

PL: Shocked and sobered. I questioned myself and my writing a lot. I hope it was an error in reading the direct style of Australian journalism, but must take some blame even when I think I’m misunderstood as it is my job to be understood.

i3j3: What do terms like “racist” do to a person like you? How has it affected you?

PL: I suspect I will be more careful, but only slightly more careful, in my communication from here on in.

I was branded a racist in 2004 for posing a very veiled suggestion that Murali may throw. It is a judgment of his bowling not his race.

I have been branded racist this year for referring to Indian Gods in a piece about racism and will take that more seriously, although the piece was an attack on people who suggested the racist sections of the crowd were praying to Hanuman or Ganesh. A ridiculous excuse. I was attacking the excuse not the deity in question.

I was branded a racist for a piece that suggested the secular Andrew Symonds was a man of peace and the religious Sree should count himself lucky. The suggestion Symonds is a man of peace was an attempt to “take the piss” but done to point out that Sree was indeed lucky that he could taunt such a belligerent fellow and survive. This was not understood by many.

i3j3: Do you feel that you are being vilified in Indian media and Indian blogs for the opinions you have openly and directly stated?

PL: I was branded a racist by Headline television but they are unerringly sensational and quite often plain wrong. I was also branded racist on blogs which I take more seriously. I don’t feel vilified, just a little bewildered.

i3j3: How do you intend going about correcting that image that you seem to have acquired?

PL: I think (hope) these people were wrong, but perception is reality and I have to deal with it by being more sensitive to these perceptions in future.

I wish people had read the feature I wrote on Saturday 20th in The Weekend Australian which set out my views at length.

i3j3: What makes a comment racist as opposed to one that is rude or personal? Does there need to be a link with race, gender or some sort of generalisation? What specifically (in your view) made the comments against Andrew Symonds racist?

PL: Racism is clearly an attack on somebody that uses their race as an element of derision.

As a white man in a white-sliced-bread world I have little personal experience but Indians who travel must have great experience of this. Indeed living in a country that has a caste system and an inherent hierarchy of skin tones you should be acutely aware of this.

If I call an Indian a “creep” that is rude, if I call them a “black/brown creep” that has crossed the thin line.

Racism and sexism have been central elements of a dialogue and education process in Australia over the past two decades.

We had a lot to learn and still do.

The attack on Symonds was racist because the suggestion that black people are closer to apes/monkeys than white people is a Darwinian article of faith in the thinking of vile white supremacists.

i3j3: Several Australian crowds would often “send off” a departing Indian batsman with a “You drive a taxi” comment. In your view, is this a racist slur?

PL: It’s getting pretty close to a racist slur. I think it’s humiliating enough to warrant ejection from the ground.

i3j3: Are you planning on writing on this topic of racism in cricket?

PL: I think racism will be a hot topic this summer after the Symonds affair and with Sri Lanka and India in town there will be plenty of talk.

I pray my countrymen are on their best behaviour, but know that their xenophobia has been exploited by a ruthless government and that racism is a deep-seated ignorance that is hard to root out of many Australians.

[to be continued…]

Peter Lalor and Charu Sharma head-to-head on racism…

Interesting read of a transcript of a program called Face The Nation on CNN-IBN, conducted by Vidya Shankar Aiyar. This has Charu Sharma and Peter Lalor, our friend from The Australian newspaper facing off on the racism issue.

— Mohan

Of Monkeys and Taxi Drivers…

A lot has been made of the monkey chants that have been heard in the last three ODIs of the recently concluded ODI series between India and Australia. We have written on this blogsite too and denounced the monkey chants and monkey signs. The goons who perpetrated these acts have to be dealt with severely. The racist taunts were despicable and Symonds is owed an apology by the BCCI. Of that, I have no doubt. Mukul Kesavan writes about this eloquently in his Cricinfo Blog.

But, having said that, I have been to games in Australia where I have endured racist taunts hurled at me. When I said this to a friend of mine of Anglo-Saxon origin, she said, “Serve you right for watching the game in Bay-13 of the G”! But that misses the point. Just as people who have been quick to point out that Symonds ‘brought it on himself’ by behaving as an arrogant guest have missed the point, my friend missed the point too.

A zero-tolerance policy of racism would suggest that the victim can never be blamed for flagrant acts of racism perpetrated against them. Period.

Now, I am not being precious. I can take racist taunts hurled at me on the chin. After all, who am I in the total scheme of things.

But what do you make of taunts being hurled at the Indian players? Have the Lalors of this world ever written about it — either in disgust or by way of an apology?

You’re going home on the back of an elephant” is a chant that one hears often when Indian players get out. Is that racist? Perhaps? Perhaps not.

But, is “You drive a taxi“, a racist chant? Indian players get it all the time. I do believe that this, and chants like “You are a curry muncher” are racist taunts. Players get it all the time when they travel to Australia. And if it happens in the Australian summer, it won’t be the first time that it happens.

I suspect that no one has said anything about these and other chants that one hears in grounds in Australia. I suspect that Indian fans and cricketers have often just shrugged their shoulders and moved on.

Indian players can expect to get a mouthful when they visit Australia later on this year. Meanwhile, I can expect Lalors’ passionate outpourings to turn solely to cricket and an occasional reference to a bad decision that Australia copped. Meanwhile, one can expect that bad decisions that India cops to be, of course, accompanied by the “Oh! It is such a tough job for the umpires” line!

Andrew Symonds already incited the Australian crowds — not that they needed any inciting — by saying that the Indians would “face a backlash” in Australia.

Ponting was a bit more polished on arriving back in Australia today. He has even perhaps indrectly requested the Australian crowds to target Sreesanth! He said, “I’m sure at different times Sree Santh and a couple of the guys will cop a hard time from the Australian public. That generally happens to most teams who tour here at some stage. I just hope, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no racial stuff at all comes up during the summer.

Ponting needs to be told, perhaps, that if racial taunts come up this summer, it won’t be, in my books, the first time that it does!

Like Ponting, I too hope that there are no racist taunts when India tour Australia this summer. But this is, I am quite sure, a forlorn hope. I don’t believe that even John “I am the only true optimist in Australia” Howard, can eradicate racism away from Australian cricket crowds. It has existed for years. It will continue to exist.

Sajid Mahmood, the English cricket player, wrote in his blog about the “You can’t be English” racist taunts he heard when he toured Australia with the English team last year for The Ashes series. Other players have felt similarly. Ask the South Africans.

After all, what is a racist chant? I believe that it is a slogan that magnifies a persons’ unique difference (cultural, race, colour, ethnicity or any other distinctive feature) as a chant/slogan/gesture/gesticulation against the person with an intent to cause hurt and anguish. Now, I am not a social anthrpologist. So, someone more knowledgeable may want to comment on that definition. But, in my view, the above is a working definition that could be used as a test in most chants/gestures.

In a landmark ruling in 2003, a judge convicted a 21-year old Port Vale fan of a criminal offence under the 1991 Football (Offences) Act, for using a chant that contained the word “Paki” at Oldham Athletic supporters during a football league match. The term “Paki” is derogatory. So also, “You drive a taxi” or “You’re going home on the back of an elephant“.

The treatment that Symonds received in India is unquestionably deplorable. However, I hope the authorities in Australia take note of the fact that, if racial stuff happens this summer, it will not be revenge. It will merely be a continuation of an existing practice.

— Mohan

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.