Cricket needs no more examples of racism

Updated: Jun 04, 2020, 08:37 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

The furore over the killing of African-American George Floyd in USA must serve as a reminder that cricket will have no place for racism

Sir Viv Richards, who was subjected to racial abuse in his 1974 to 1991 international cricket career. PIc /Getty images
Sir Viv Richards, who was subjected to racial abuse in his 1974 to 1991 international cricket career. PIc /Getty images

picRacism is not only in football, it's in cricket too. Even within teams, as a black man, I get the end of the stick. That racism exists in cricket." West Indian Chris Gayle's remarks in an Instagram post are not surprising but sad.

Gayle, it must be noted, has been part of Twenty20 gigs all across the cricketing globe (West Indies, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Pakistan, UAE, South Africa, Zimbabwe) and it's quite unlikely that he is in exaggeration mode or suffering from a persecution complex.

Gayle's post came on the same day as his former limited overs captain Darren Sammy's call for cricket establishments to join the fight against racism in the wake of African-American George Floyd's May 25 killing in Minneapolis, USA.

The utterances of Gayle and Sammy were commendable in a world full of fence-sitters and mute spectators. Kumar Sangakkara was also quick with a condemnation that said there shouldn't be any place for prejudice in a culture.

Racism in the willow game was not unknown, but the film on West Indies cricket, Fire in Babylon probably opened our eyes further to see how much of a deadly poison it is. In it, Sir Viv Richards said remarks like, "You black this, and you black that," enraged him.

Gordon Greenidge revealed he faced racism during his schooling days in England and of course on that ill-fated tour which West Indies, under Clive Lloyd, lost 1-5 to Greg Chappell's tight outfit in 1975-76. Michael Holding said that the crowd made remarks which were not politically correct. Little did they know that very year, a comment would come from England's Tony Greig who wanted to make them "grovel." Greig's supporters did not believe that "grovel" had any racial connotations but the West Indians didn't take it well and Greig paid the price for what he admitted was a "silly" comment.

In the book, Hitting Across The Line (published in 1991), Richards said that he faced taunts in Australia like, "You f**k off, you black b**t**d." It did not miss the attention of Ian Chappell, who had led the Australian team with Richards in the opposition during Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.

A disturbed Ian immediately spoke to his brother Greg to check whether any player under his captaincy racially abused Richards. Greg indicated that he wouldn't have spared anyone if they did. A relieved Ian did not miss out on an opportunity to check with Richards himself when he arrived in Australia to promote Hitting Across the Line during the 1992 World Cup. Richards laughed and said it was an Australian fast bowler who did so "only a couple of times" but the matter was settled. "I thought he was ignorant and I found out later he thought I was arrogant. We discovered this over a few drinks in England. Now, we're mates," Richards was quoted as telling his former adversary in Chappelli - The Cutting Edge.

Ian's concern was based on the fact that he had a zero-tolerance policy for racial abuse. In the same book he revealed that he warned his players before undertaking their 1972-73 tour of the West Indies that they shouldn't prefix their comments to the West Indians with the word "black." Chappell was glad that none of his players racially abused the opposition.

Richards in Fire in Babylon said he got annoyed when someone called him a black b**t**d, "because I am not [one]."

Ian's problem with that term was also due to the fact that no one called an Englishman a white b**t**d. Well, an England player was — a great fast bowler who answered to the name of Fred Trueman. The Yorkshireman wrote in Ball of Fire: "The biggest row on that tour [1953-54 series in the West Indies] came when I was doing some stock, fast medium bowling in a minor match, deputising for someone who had been injured. I put one just short of a length to a man who is now dead and gone — and he called me a white English b**t**d. I told him that if he said that again I would bloody do him. A couple of overs later he did say it again so I gave him a bouncer which put him in hospital with a broken jaw and several teeth missing.

"I was so mad, I didn't go to him but walked back to the start of my run-up and sat down. I refused to apologise to him unless he apologised to me. I still say he asked for it, although I rarely enjoyed hurting anyone."

The late Malcolm Marshall revealed in Marshall Arts that an Australian batsman abused his teammate and fellow Bajan, Joel Garner on receiving a bouncer in the Kingston Test of Australia's 1983-84 tour to the Caribbean. The matter was not pursued by "gentle" Garner but Marshall said had it been directed to him, he would have certainly charged in swiftly and, "who knows what I would have unleashed."

Darren Lehmann, who exited his position as coach of the Australian team following the 2018 ball tampering controversy in South Africa, will forever be known as the man who was in charge of the side when the Australians adopted the win-at-all-costs culture. But his critics will always point to Lehmann's 'colourful' abuse directed to the Sri Lankans after he was run out in a game in 2003. He later termed it as "the biggest mistake" of his life.

More recently — last year — England's Barbados-born fast bowler Jofra Archer complained of racial abuse at Mount Maunganui during the 2019 New Zealand tour.

Cricketers of other nations have been attacked by the big sharp sword of racism as well. And while the International Cricket Council deal with abusive spectators and players in the most stringent of ways, it is important to remember what Mahatma Gandhi said about road blockers of India's freedom: "I want to change their minds."

That little man knew something about being targeted for the colour of his skin.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello

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