February 7, 2006

Crowd behaviour

Hit racism for six

Rahul Bhattacharya

Introduction | Peter English

Update from Rahul, February 11

The Wasim Akram illustration in my post has attracted more pointed feedback than it was intended to, so perhaps it is best to elaborate.

First, the ICC (now headquartered in Dubai). Leave aside for a moment its shortcomings and look at the composition. It is presided over by a Pakistani, vice-presided over by a South African and its technical committee, which looks after almost all the cricketing aspects, is headed by an Indian. Its 10 permanent members include four Asian nations, two African nations and the West Indies.



'The other form of racism which must be rejected is from the likes of Wasim Akram, whose analysis of every situation culminates in a white conspiracy' © AFP
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Some readers have pointed out that Asians have been hard done by in behaviour-related issues, which may be a fair enough interpretation. Still, the panel of match referees is headed by Ranjan Madugulle. In the Michael Slater incident that some have referred to, the match referee was a Bajan, Cammie Smith. Clive Lloyd has been among the strictest referees over the past few years.

Neither at the time of making them, nor in the later inquisition, was Akram able to present a case for his comments, because it attacked not a single specific issue but a skin colour. Can you imagine the furore if a famous English cricketer was to go on record with the exact words: "I am against the ICC. The reason is it's run by all the browns."

A few months before the ICC outburst, Akram's response to Wisden's routine observation about Sachin Tendulkar trading aggression for accumulation involved making it a matter of the English trying to dish out a humiliation. Match-fixing is libellous territory so another little illustration must be withheld here.

It is true that he was a fab, fab cricketer, unjustly vilified for reverse-swing and glory be on him for both bowling it and fighting for its legitimacy, but does that mean we are to be stirred by a convenient and dangerous brand of populism? One reader has alluded to Martin Luther King in defence. Another might respond by citing Robert Mugabe. And by then we've lost the plot.

Anyhow, in the final analysis this is not about Akram. It is simply that the differences between points wich open minds and close minds are there for us to recognise and sift through.

Rahul's original piece

Among the many varied responses to Peter’s much-needed article, Kicking Out Racism, two types are particularly instructive. One is the defensive Australian, indignant that his society has been called racist on the basis of a small number of incidents. The other is the belligerent Asian who counterattacks. Both, in their different ways, miss the point that racism is a condition of the world not a nation. Having never been to Australia, I’ll leave others to hold forth on the first kind. A few points about the second.

A reader's recent email puts it this way: “It is not about colour that the Aussies keep taunting others. It is their history they like to erase: after all, great civilizations thrived in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Africa, [at a time] when Australia was probably populated by animals. Understanding this inferiority complex is the key to solving Aussie spectator and player behaviour.”

This notion of civilisation superiority regularly finds voice in India, too, and more so under provocation. It is as damaging to the bigger cause as the incidents in Australia because, from a position of superiority, it is impossible to introspect with any fruitfulness. And sometimes in India you do worry if there is any introspection: so silent is everyone on the issue that you wonder if they know if it exists at all.

At the Bombay Test match against West Indies in 2002 I was told by friends in the stands that the relentless racist abuse joyously hurled at the visitors by some sections of the crowd was sickening. I don’t know if there was any accompanying the crowd disturbance in three subsequent one-dayers at Jamshedpur, Nagpur and Rajkot – such was the thinness of the reporting on that aspect of it – but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was. The culture which some carry like a shield does after all demonise, in literal terms, the colour black.

Though it was said with a kind of affection, you have to wonder about the chant ,‘Sabse kaala ladka kaun? Kambli, Kambli’ (Who’s the blackest boy of all? Kambli, Kambli). Has anybody asked Kambli what he thinks of it? Or the other dark-skinned people in the audience?

The other form of racism which must be rejected is from the likes of Wasim Akram, whose analysis of every situation culminates in a white conspiracy. While hideous double-standards are often legitimately exposed, it is all too easy for the whole thing to degenerate into a dangerous populism. Take, for instance, his hopelessly uninformed point about the ICC being run by a cabal of whites.

When questioned on the television show Aap Ki Adaalat, Akram responded with: 'Jee, kya maine kuchh galat bola?' (Did I say anything wrong?). He received hearty backing from the sit-in audience. Sometimes we overlook the point that 'gora bh***dh' is really no different from 'black c**t'.

It is worth pointing out that in the past few months in Bombay, supposedly the country’s most cosmopolitan city, black South Africans have been barred entry to certain pubs and a white American to a temple. Despite the obvious confrontation involved, sport remains one of the great levellers, and often precedes the rest of society in the equalising. Fans must continue taking the lead. Quibbling over whose racism is worse is futile. The strongest possible statement Indians can make against the racism in Australia, or any other part of the world, is to confront its own.

In the meantime, a question that remains on the minds of many people. Last week the ICC informed the world that Muttiah Muralitharan has been reprimanded for showing the finger to a man who painted his face black and had the word ‘no-ball’ painted across his chest. Could they please tell us what happened to that man?

Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan and the novel The Sly Company of People Who Care

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Posted by JiggaDigga on (April 7, 2006, 5:20 GMT)

Great reading, keep up the great posts. Peace, JiggaDigga

Posted by N on (February 16, 2006, 0:23 GMT)

how is john howard being racist if he says murali throws? its his opinion that he throws the ball....it has nothing to do with murali's race. bishen bedi openly calls murali a chucker...is that racism? im indian and i think murali throws...does that make me racist? these are cricketing opinions and have nothing to do with racial discrimination. and someone has said something like "If the leader of a country behaves in such a manner, what do you expect from it's citizens?" that is a sweeping generalization over an entire country. and based on what? a leader, who follows cricket with a passion, saying murali throws.

yes maybe he shouldnt have commented on murali's action...but how can anyone even related that to this article which tackles racism?this is the kind of over defensive mind-set of some of us asians which causes unnecessary tension.

Posted by Ullas on (February 13, 2006, 5:51 GMT)

I completely agree that with regard to the Murali controversy, Australians have acted immature, fans, players and why, even the Prime Minister included.

Now if we take a closer look, what happened to Wasim was in some ways similar to what is happening to Murali...they tried to take away from him what was rightfully his...reverse swing was an art and not ball tampering...obviously he has a reason to feel bitter...and I don't think everything he says ends at bashing goras...

Posted by Dave Angel on (February 12, 2006, 15:41 GMT)

"I wonder if Akram's comments are so easy to be brushed aside. Can you name the last cricketer outside the subcontinent banned for a level 2 or 3 offence?"

Graeme Smith.

Now you name the last cricketer from within the subcontinent who was banned and didn't cry about it for weeks and weeks and threaten the whole world with legal action.

Posted by Jeff on (February 11, 2006, 19:12 GMT)

What is this talk about "reverse-racism"? This seems to me to be an implicit justification. Racism is racism, whomever the target. Double standards are the greatest hindrance to this issue being resolved.

Posted by Adnan Yusuf on (February 11, 2006, 8:42 GMT)

Yo Adrian(rocky), chill, I wasn't generalizing, please dont get offended. What I meant was that the head of a country is not supposed to make those comments. Lets leave them to the other guys. I have white friends also and btw you mentioned the wrong name, the comment you replied to was made by me Adnan Yusuf.

Posted by Sri on (February 11, 2006, 4:30 GMT)

Nobody denies that rascism exists in Australia or for that matter, in other "white" countries. Also accusations of rascism does not make the accuser a rascist. This is especially true in ICC dealings, where there is a generally held perception that the ICC favors "white" nations and/or players. ( I really believe this to be true).

Having said that, before we at start acccusing others, it might be worthwhile to examine ourselves to see if we do not exhibit the same behaviour. Frankly, as a South Indian, I have experienced more than my share of "Salaa kaala madrasi" remarks from Northies and certainly been treated with more respect as an individual in the US, rather than in India.

Note - I am **not** accusing all Northies of sharing this attitude. The point is that there are enough idiots on all sides - North, South, White, Black - you name it. It might be worthwhile for authorities to start enforcing a "zero tolerance" policy at home first before looking elsewhere.

Posted by Rahil Khan on (February 11, 2006, 2:50 GMT)

Here's one more form of descrimination: My comments never made it to the blog...

Akram bashing is not going to absolve the true culprits of the bias.

Way to go, cricinfo!

Posted by Prashant on (February 10, 2006, 20:23 GMT)

Michael, there were no good old days. When Ranji, the great inventor of the leg side flick, was selected to play for England, a number of prominent English politicians and cricketers expressed their outrage. Similarly, when Ifthikar Ali Khan Pataudi toured Australia with the MCC team during the Bodyline series, he was a virtual stranger within his own team, and a target for barracking crowds who often yelled out "Hey, Gandhi, where's your goat?" and other such pleasantries. We must also remember that English cricketers were often puzzled about why a simple cricketing trip to South Africa led to the end of their cricketing careers. Cricket and politics don't mix they said, a fact they appear to have forgotten in matters concerning Zimbabwe. The only difference between racism in cricket in our time and in the so-called good old days is the fact that in its earlier incarnation, it was practiced by gentlemen over drinks in posh clubs, while in the modern age it is practiced by non-gentlemen, also over drinks in the stands.

Posted by Adrian on (February 8, 2006, 12:33 GMT)

So, Wipula Fernando: "We all know what Mr. Howard said about one of the greatest spin bowlers ever. If the leader of a country beheves in such a manner, what do you expect from it's citizens?"

You accuse all Australians of being racist because of something one person has said, then make a totally racist comment yourself. That sounds very hypocritical to me.

I suggest you take a look in the mirror before worrying about anyone else. I am a white Australian with friends from nations as varied as Malta, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Greece, Portugal and abhor racism. I've travelled quite a bit and have found that although there are undesirable elements of racism and bigorty in most countries, the majority of people are friendly and don't care where you are from.

The same applies in Australia. There are a minority of people who embarrass me as an Australian with their behaviour. The incident with the person painting themselves black and writing No Ball is just as sickening to me as it is to most of you. So how do you think it makes me feel to be branded a racist because of the actions of this idiot and a few others? You appear to be the only racist out of the two of us.

According to your theory, I can label all the people from your country as racist. Does that sound fair to you? It certainly doesn't to me.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rahul Bhattacharya
Author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04

All articles by this writer