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Racism in Cricket: Examples of ugly discrimination striking the gentleman’s game

The many faces of racism in the gentleman's game © Getty Images, Cricket Australia's Twitter handle
The many faces of racism in the gentleman’s game © Getty Images, Cricket Australia’s Twitter handle

Three days ago, basketball team Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million for a racist comment. Abhijit Banare looks back at some of the incidents in cricket which was marred by racial slur.

Racism has once again raised a huge debate after the owner of basketball franchise, Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling was banned for life and imposed a huge penalty of $2.5 million after a recording emerged of him making racist comments. The National Basketball Association (NBA) which took this swift action came under a lot of praise. The NBA commissioner held a press conference on April 29, 2014 and announced the ban and penalty.

Despite living in a world where these age-old discrimination methods have been put to rest, incidents like these are not uncommon. Sport, which is supposed to send out powerful messages of harmony across the world, has seen numerous such cases of racism and cricket too is one them. Below are some incidents of racism in cricket.

1. Basil D’Oliviera

One of the darkest moments in South Africa‘s sporting history resulted in their stand towards South Africa born-England cricketer Basil D’Oliviera. He had moved to England in 1960 as he felt he would never be able to play First Class cricket in his home country. Years later when the English squad was chosen for the South Africa tour in 1968-69, D’Oliviera was not selected and there was a huge controversy.

Tom Cartwright, one of the players from the squad had to bow out due to an injury and D’Oliviera was included. Following is a reaction from the South African Prime Minister John Vorster as quoted in the book South Africa’s Foreign Policy: The Search for Status and Security, the Republic was “not prepared to receive a team thrust upon us by people whose interests are not in the game but to gain certain political objectives which they do not even attempt to hide.”

2. The grovel that backfired

‘Grovel’ was a word which was inappropriate in the era where racial discrimination was largely prevalent. Tony Greig‘s grovel remark in the run-up to the 1976 series against West Indies flared the tempers among the West Indians.

Greig made his infamous remark on a television show: “I like to think that people are building these West Indians up, because I am not really sure they’re as good as everyone thinks they are,” he started and touched upon their defeat in Australia and struggle at home against India. “Sure, they’ve got a couple of fast bowlers, but … you must remember that (if) the West Indian gets on top they are magnificent cricketers, but if they’re down, they grovel. And I intend, with the help of Closey (Brian Close) and a few others, to make them grovel.”

Grieg was welcomed with endless short-pitched bowling and earned the fury of the tall and intimidating West Indian fast bowlers. He smelled the leather too often. Here’s CricketCountry’s Chief Cricket Historian, Arunabha Sengupta recounting the moments in detail. 

The newspapers said it loud.
The newspapers said it loud

3. The Gandhi treatment

The West Indian players had already earned the ire for making the infamous rebel tour in 1983. But things turned worse when Colin Croft was thrown out of a train by the conductor as it was a whites-only carriage. Back then, a white passenger had travelled with Croft in the carriage reserved for non-whites. “I stood up and explained who Croft was. It made no difference, the conductor was insistent. He said Croft would have to leave,” the white passenger Raymond Roos was quoted by the Herald after the incident occurred. Roos and the conductor Willie van Zyl 15 years later met with Croft when the West Indian returned to the country for commentating duties.

4. Jackman denied entry

When England toured South Africa in 1980-81, Robin Jackman was refused visa by the government in Guyana and was deported. The second Test was cancelled. As mentioned in the book  South Africa’s Foreign Policy: The Search for Status and Security, Jackman was on a UN ‘blacklist’ of those who had played in South Africa which had been drawn up by South African Non Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) and legitimised by the UN Special Committee on Apartheid.

5. Lara!

It was a shock victory for Kenya over the West Indians in the 1996 World Cup. After the match at Pune, Brian Lara was reported to have gone in to the Kenyan dressing room and said: ”It wasn’t that bad losing to you guys. You are black. Know what I mean. Now a team like South Africa is a different matter altogether. You know, this white thing comes into the picture. We can’t stand losing to them.”

Then Outlook reporter Aniruddha Bahal who was present in the dressing room published it which led to the massive uproar. Lara later apologised for the remark and said it was taken out of context.

6. Ruining Rudolph’s Christmas

During South Africa’s tour of Australia in 2001-02, Jacques Rudolph was set to play the third Test as decided by the selectors. However, the then President of Union Cricket Board of South Africa, Percy Sonn forced the team to play Ontong ahead of Rudolph as part of their racial quota policy. Ontong made his debut in the Sydney Test but the issue caused a debate.

Ontong later was quoted by The Telegraph saying: “I’d say I didn’t justify my selection, because Jacques Rudolph performed better in the warm-up games. Jacques and I are room-mates, we get on very well, but I felt down for him because he deserved to play.”

7. Lehmann’s layman act

After he was run-out in an ODI against Sri Lanka at Brisbane in 2003, Darren Lehmann was heard shouting ‘Black c***’. The Sri Lankan authorities were furious and lodged a complaint to the referee Clive Lloyd. He was later suspended for five ODIs, charged with a Level 3 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct. Lehmann had apologised to the Sri Lankan team in person and through a letter. But being a senior Australian player, the controversy snowballed in the media.

8. Monkeygate!

Consider it racism or pure misunderstanding of the language of two players, but the ugly drama that unfolded over the clash between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds in the 2007-08 tour to Australia created a lot of bad blood between the two cricketing nations. The infamous Sydney Test was remembered for the racial slur where Symonds alleged that Harbhajan called him ‘monkey’.

In the Test which saw a series of poor umpiring decisions, Symonds had survived thrice. Later when Harbhajan was given not out to a Brett Lee delivery, Bhajji patted Lee on the back. Symonds decided to have a go at the batsman and Harbhajan’s reply created the stir. The Australians took it as a racial slur and the controversy deteriorated the relation between the teams. Years later, both players where part of the same team in the Indian Premier League playing for Mumbai Indians. Read More about the Harbhajan-Andrew Symonds rift here.

9. Jones not “Hash”ed up

In August 2007, during a test between South Africa and Sri Lanka, Dean Jones made a comment which saw him being sacked by the broadcasters. When Hashim Amla took a brilliant catch to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara, Jones reacted: ‘the terrorist gets another wicket’. Jones later apologised profusely for the statement. He even called up Amla to apologise. ”At around quarter to 10 I remember taking this call. It was from Dean Jones and he apologised and I said ‘no problem’. I thought that was the end of it. But obviously there were implications – and a lot more media questions when he got back home. Coming from South Africa, which is very sensitive to stereotyping, it was a big thing back home. It was a lesson to everybody who has hidden stereotypes. I remember Dean said to me, when he apologised, ‘Sorry, mate, I didn’t mean for it to come out on air…’” Amla was quoted by The Guardian.

10. The full Monty

The latest incident of racism in cricket: during the Ashes Down Under 2013-14, Monty Panesar was included in the side for the second Test. Cricket Australia on its official Twitter handle posted an image of four Sikhs with turban and a beard and the tweet read:

‘Will the real Monty Panesar please stand up?! #Ashes’.

The tweet created massive uproar, the tweet was deleted and Cricket Australia issued an apology: “We apologise for any offence caused by our earlier tweet. That was certainly not the intention. It has been removed.”

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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