Racism in cricket November 8, 2008

Officials hid behind 'cultural misunderstanding' - Symonds

Cricinfo staff

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'ICC let down Hansen'
  • Andrew Symonds said Justice Hansen's decision to overturn Harbhajan's ban was not the right result. But he felt Hansen was not to blame since he had acted on the information given to him by the ICC.
  • "The ICC let him down badly by failing to provide him with Harbhajan's full disciplinary record, and their laxness meant it was an unsatisfactory end - in my eyes anyway. The judge found that I had provoked the incident by my approach towards Harbhajan, and in his findings, he criticised my evidence that a Test match is no place to be friendly with the opposition. Sorry mate, but I stand by that statement. Ideally, you play cricket hard on the field and give the opposition nothing. But I'm always prepared to leave it on the field when I walk off."
Bottom Curve

Andrew Symonds has said he got "darker at the world" during Australia's tour of India last year, when he was subjected to monkey chants by the crowd, and by his subsequent altercations with Harbhajan Singh, who was charged for racist abuse against Symonds earlier this year.

Symonds was left out of the Test squad for Australia's ongoing series in India on disciplinary grounds after he skipped a team meeting to go fishing ahead of the ODI series against Bangladesh, which his team-mates felt was one misdemeanour too many in a year when his attitude had raised eyebrows within the squad. He said the events in India and then in Australia had made him "physically tired and mentally worn down" by the end of the season.

Recounting the events in his new book Roy on the Rise, Symonds said "some people in authority" during the ODI in Vadodara, where the monkey chants were first heard, were aware that it was getting out of hand. However, he said "others continued to hide behind the line that it was all a cultural misunderstanding and that the chants were merely celebrating the monkey god".

"One of our off-field team couldn't hide his disbelief at this," Symonds wrote. "The frustration levels in the camp were rising and I was conscious of contributing to the pressure on the team. It was another turbulent match. I was out for a first-ball duck. I trudged off, getting darker at the world by the second as monkey chants boomed out around Wankhede Stadium. Finally in the rooms, I said to myself: 'Well, what the f--- happened there?' I wasn't referring to the dismissal, more to the events that had led up to the game. It had become impossible to escape and I only hoped things might start to improve."

Symonds said things just got worse in the Indian innings. "Harbhajan and I locked horns briefly in the 35th over and that's when he chucked the 'monkey' word at me. I didn't have to be Einstein to work out what he was referring to. The word got around the team, but I had decided I really didn't want to go any further with it. Frankly, I was sick of it and just wanted it all to go away.

"India won the game, and afterwards the team had a brief discussion about whether a formal charge should be laid against Harbhajan. But I was keen to try to deal with it there and then and went along to their dressing-room and asked to speak with Harbhajan. I basically told him: 'Look, the name-calling is fine with me, it doesn't particularly worry me what you call me, but you know what is going to happen. One thing will lead to another and you blokes will end up going to an umpire and it will get out of hand'.

"I said that the word he used was offensive and hurtful and he apologised and said it wouldn't happen again. We shook hands and I said: 'That's the end of it'. As it turned out, Harbhajan would later deny this conversation took place, but my recollection is about as clear as I can be on the event."

Following the Sydney Test between the two sides earlier this year Harbhajan was slapped with a three-Test ban for making a racist comment against Symonds. His ban was overturned on appeal and Symonds said the hearing was not one of the most enjoyable days of his life. By the end of the season he said he was sick of cricket for all the wrong reasons. "I know some people might struggle to understand, but all I can say is that the stuff that wore me down was not the playing of the game. This time, it was feeling that I had been let down, or had let people down - or both."