Racism and Discrimination in Cricket

Sadly enough, cricket is not any different from other sports in terms of the several instances of racism noted in the sport. Australia is a nation particularly noted for the unruly and sometimes racist behavior of its fans. Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi and South African players and fans have often been targeted on racial grounds by fans in Australia. In fact, White South African players have also been targets of racism in Australia. The White South African players have often been subjected to “name-calling,” such as for instance, “traitors of the White race” by Australian white supremacists for playing alongside Black South Africans. However, it is worth noting that many of these white supremacists were former South Africans who had participated in the oppression of other races in South Africa during the “apartheid” era. Players of England have often also suffered humiliation at the hands of Australian fans. The rivalry between England and Australia in cricket is quite a major rivalry that dates back to almost a century. England has often been on the losing side of the battle in recent years against Australia, and has often also been subjected to “name-calling.” While this may not be viewed as racial, the “name-calling” of English players does involve some derogatory terms.

Interestingly enough, no such problems have been noted among the fans of Australia’s closest neighbor – New Zealand. In fact, the fans of New Zealand have been very disciplined and have only acted in an unruly manner against Australians, often in retaliation. Some Australian players have also displayed acts of racism by calling players of other countries using derogatory terms. In one memorable occasion, one well-acclaimed Australian player called the Sri Lankan players “monkeys” after he was “out” in a match. However, most Australian “players” have acted with a high level of dignity and professionalism, and have displayed respect for players from other countries. Bear in mind that I said “Australia has been particularly noted.” Racism very much exists in one other cricketing nation that has gone completely unnoticed or completely ignored. That nation is India.

On many occasions, Indian fans have subjected Pakistani and Sri Lankan players to humiliation. There have been signs displayed by Indian fans which compare Indian players to the likeness of Hindu deities, and Sri Lankan or Pakistani players to that of the devil or evil forces. Calling players of other countries, especially players of African origin, names is also something that Indian fans often engage in. On more than just a few occasions, a few Indian players have referred to players of African origin by the use of one or more derogatory terms.Recently, unflattering remark passed by Harbhajan Singh on Andrew Symonds, a player of part African origin, stirred significant controversy. It was originally claimed that Singh called Symonds a Monkey. Several attempts were also made by the Indian public, the media and a few Indian commentators to trivialize the incident by suggesting that calling someone a Monkey is not a bad thing since one of the Hindu deities is of a Monkey form.

Despite all this, it was later revealed that Singh called Symonds “Maan Ki,” in Hindi which is equivalent to something like “son of a bitch,” if I am correct. Regardless of whether the former claim or the latter claim was correct, Symonds refused to play in India for a brief period after the incident. He later returned to India to play in the Indian Premier League in the same team as Singh($$$ is big in IPL for cricketers). Anyone who is knowledgeable about cricket history surely knows what happens when Indian players are subject to even the smallest amount of criticism (forget even racism). That is correct, all hell breaks loose, and riots break out in India. The unfortunate fact is that many Indians live by double standards.

So, the question arises – why was this player never given proper punishment? Why wasn’t a proper investigation made of the incidents? Why did the ICC go easy on India in this matter. This is where the complaints of England, Australia and New Zealand regarding the favorable treatment of India becomes relevant. The incidents of racism in Australia was thoroughly investigated by an appointed official of the ICC. However, no such investigation ensued with regard to the incidents in India. The Australian players who had displayed acts of racism were punished by the ICC, if not severely. The Indian players who displayed similar acts were hardly subjected to an official reprimand.

There is also discrimination in Cricket. Most notably in Zimbabwe, South Africa and India. As mentioned earlier, the political crisis in Zimbabwe had complete ruined the nation. All the White players and Black players who stood up against the discriminatory practices have pretty much been kicked out of the Zimbabwean team. These players have moved on with their life in other countries. Most players fled to England. Zimbabwe now is left with completely inexperienced players or players with very little experience.

South Africa, in an effort to reverse the past oppression of Blacks during the apartheid era, has quotas in place for the mandatory selection of Black cricket players. While this is what would be called a form of affirmative action, it is a widely held view by most people of the world (inclusive of Blacks) that this is also another form of discrimination. Many notable Black South African players, however, have opposed the quota system arguing that this is sending a wrong message to the rest of the world. Many Black players of South Africa support a selection system purely and completely based on merit. Nonetheless, quite a few talented white players had been left out of the South African team, purely because of the quota system. One notable player who was left out of the South African team because of the quota system is Kevin Pietersen. Kevin Pietersen, subsequently moved to England, and managed to get drafted by the England Cricket Board. Pietersen now plays for the English Team. Kevin Pietersen is by far one of the best batters in the cricket world today. He played a phenomenally large role in taking England to its first Ashes victory in 20 years against Australia. Kevin Pietersen quickly became a hero for English Cricket fans within a matter of a few months in England. Many view Pietersen as one of the best batsmen in cricket, in line with the ranks of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Brian Lara.

While India also has quota system for many professions, admissions to schools and colleges, and is among the worst possible example of quota system in the world; the cricketing profession in India does not have a quota system. However, silent discriminatory practices or disguised discrimination occur in a rampant manner in India. Most discrimination in Indian cricket occurs on linguistic grounds. The majority of India speaks Hindi. These Indians belong to the northern part of India. There are several other completely different languages spoken in south and north-east India.

Discrimination in Indian cricket mostly occurs in the form of north Indians discriminating against south Indians. Most members of the cricketing board of India are politicians or others from north India. The players they select for the team are also mostly north Indians. South Indians are rarely ever selected and retained for a prolonged period of time. In fact, I can only think of 3. 2 (Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble) out of these three individuals have often been subjected to unwarranted criticism by the north Indian controlled media and have often been left out of important matches for no viable reason despite their high quality cricket potential. However, despite all this, it would be fair to be admit that not many great players have often emerged from the south. When that does happen, however, they have often not been given the due chance to prove themselves in the international arena.

It is also worth noting that the the venue selectors for cricket matches in India conveniently always leave out south Indian venues for play. When they do select south Indian venues for matches, matches often get cancelled because of rain or other interference. However, it is worth noting that with the arrival of IPL, and other major changes in the cricketing world, these things are changing and more south Indian players are now being included on a long term basis in the Indian cricketing side. It is worth noting, however, that IPL may have contributed greatly in this regard, because of its market-based approach.

It is also worth noting that during the apartheid era, India, Pakistan, New Zealand (officially and unofficially), and all other cricket boards were vocally opposed to the any involvement of South Africa in international cricket. The International Cricket Council (ICC) had banned South Africa from international cricket and restricted any and all players among its member nations from participating in any cricket event in South Africa. This move at the time was considered a welcome one by the UN, other international sport associations such as FIFA, and many western democratic governments. India was one among those nations, which vocally opposed any breach of this policy. Players from England and Australia were notorious for breaking this rule. Geoffrey Boycott, Graham Gooch, and Chris Broad achieved great notoriety for this violation (appears to have been the first violation of this kind). All players of this rebel tour received a three-year ban, which effectively ended the careers of many English players, including that of Boycott.

Despite all the hardships and scandals cricket has gone through and despite all the racism and discrimination in cricket, cricket has survived for more than 300 years. It has evolved over the years and continues to be loved by many around the world. More than 11 countries play cricket on a regular basis, more than a billion people follow this sport, and cricket is the most popular sport following soccer.As said earlier, it is only a matter of few years before cricket gains an entry into the Olympics. What could be called one of England’s best inventions to date, cricket will thrive and continue to attract more countries to the sport. That is all that can be said about cricket. Watch out for updates in other cricket sections.