Greg Ritchie performance scrapped December 5, 2003

Cancelled show averts potential race row

Wisden Cricinfo staff

A potential race-relations disaster has been averted with the the news that the planned performance by former Test player Greg Ritchie of his Punjabi parody figure, Mahatma Cote, during next week's second Test between Australia and India at Adelaide, has been cancelled.

Rather surprisingly, Ritchie was booked by one of the South Australia Cricket Association's (SACA) corporate sponsors to perform his routine during the first day's lunch break. While the performance was intended purely for the commercial clients, it would have been be audible to sections of the crowd. As the story was picked up by the media, the SACA initially looked to distance itself from the potential backlash. "One of the sponsors has hired Greg Ritchie to perform," said a spokeswoman. "We haven't organised it. They come and hire the platform. We only provide the venue."

But, unsurprisingly, the sponsors began to have second thoughts and after talking to Ritchie, it was agreed that the plans should be scrapped. The show - widely condemned as culturally and racially inappropriate - risked causing offence to Indian spectators and players.

Reactions in the press box had been mixed. Some visiting journalists warned that the use of the name Mahatma would likely offend many Indians, others said that the performance was likely to be "more amusing than offensive". One reporter summed up the act as being absurd. "No Punjabi could be called Mahatma," he explained, "and Cote is not an Indian name."