Cricket Colours and Controversy
By Osama Rahman
Illustration: E.R. Ronny
When will cricket's blatant racism cease? There is absolutely no way of going around this phenomenon. Cricket is racist and the 'World' Cup reinforces this point like no other sporting event. Of course it's not done in an obvious way so one would have no idea that it is being done, unless the components of the perpetrators are exposed, piece by piece, fragment by fragment and word by the darn word.
Let's start with the very first case of segregation. It is futile to deny the division that cricket creates between East and the West. Instead of bridging the global gap, the two sides of the Earth raise the tempo in this debate, leading to more flares of temper than a boxing bout. The West never lets go of a single opportunity to lament the commercialization of the game by teams from the East, specifically India whilst the East constantly points fingers at the 'superior' way cricketing nations from the West are treated, especially by match officials, claiming the treatment to be 'biased'.
The debate further involves utterances of 'wealth', 'colour' and even 'stereotypes'. In fact the Cricinfo comments section is full of such blames. Nothing exemplifies this more than an incident when West Indian Sulieman Benn was handed a one-match ban over a clash with Haddin and Johnson of Australia, resulting in Benn being sentenced to a one match ban while the Australian offenders were given a mere fine. Though the West Indians were outraged, Indian Anil Kumble did not miss the opportunity to point this out as absolute biased behaviour, invoking memories of the infamous 2008 Sydney test.
Of course the whole East vs. West is just one instance of the discrimination that cricket invokes in numerous other television and real life segments. There are so many more cases that at one point it gets tiresome to even try. But, for the sake of argument, let's ask who won the last T20 World Cup. Then ask which country was shamelessly ignored in the edition of IPL of that very year. The answer to both questions is Pakistan. Afridi and Co., despite winning the world cup, failed to appear in the IPL draft. While many state it was PCB's unwillingness, the fact is the Board of Control for Cricket in India, did not exactly oppose the idea of pointedly leaving out Pakistani cricketers. Another instance of segregation hence pops up once more.
Pakistan's mention always invokes memories of the dramatic Oval Test of February 2007, when a match was awarded to England following allegations of ball-tampering against Pakistan. Though this ignited much criticism, especially ones aimed at umpire Darell Hair, the respective Boards and ICC itself said the call was in accordance with the laws. However, Hair's judgment was still criticised and he was subsequently banned, after Inzamam was cleared of the ball-tampering case. Hair did not take this lightly and said the decision was based on a racial premise, where the 'white man' was taking the fall. Hair sued ICC and PCB on racial discrimination grounds, claiming that he was being victimised and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove was being let-off. PCB's Chairman, Dr. Naseem Ashraf famously said 'It is crass for him to say a black West Indian was let off [whereas] he was a white man and therefore he was charged.' This will go down in history as one of cricket's most infamous moments. When top officials themselves bring racism into play, who are we to keep mum?
The influx of colours in Cricket does lead to a lot of controversy. Be it Harbajhan calling Andrew Symonds a 'monkey' or 5000 Indian fans repeating the same, cricket is never far from controversy. Consider even certain West Indians calling certain other players 'White cowards'. Or the superstar Keven Pieterson, who claimed that he left South Africa and came to England to avoid the racial conflict which persists in the region. The list is endless. Wonder how only 14 countries can generate so much racial tension? It's not down to Sidhu's hatred for Bangladesh or any singular factor, but rather the game itself calls for it. White balls, I ask you. To top it off, the next World Cup may actually be trimmed down to 10 teams. World Cup? 'World' cup? If smaller teams are denied even this exposure, how are they expected to progress?
Finally, before the hate pours, ask yourself this; does anyone really give Kenya or Zimbabwe any chance of progressing? People are not willing to give those teams even an outside chance. Also, could the Indian cricket team have been stoned? Racism persists and so does a state of being biased and nothing is being done against such things. This is probably because it's inbred in the cricketing system. There remains no scope for denial. Thankfully though, the newer breed of cricketers and cricket fans are waking up to this phenomenon and as is evident in the sub-continent's atmosphere of unity and tolerance, cricket may finally rid itself of a long and infectious pest.
By Osama Rahman
DISCLAIMER: Certain points in this article are tongue-in-cheek, and some are not, have fun guessing. And also, the writer is not a cricket fan.