Five moments when racism reared its ugly head on the cricket field

Five incidents in cricket since the turn of the century that have seen racist slurs leading to major controversies, featuring Australia, England, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa:

Racism has often reared its ugly head on the cricket field. Players have been known to cross the line with their opponents in the heat of the moment, or even be casually racist towards a teammate, like Darren Sammy’s recent revelation from his time with Sunrisers Hyderabad shows.

Even in the recent past, despite an anti-racism code being introduced in the sport and turned up volumes of the stump mic, racist slurs have continued to be thrown around, sometimes becoming major controversies. Here’s looking at five such incidents in international cricket since the turn of the century:

Sarfaraz abuses Phehlukwayo
In January 2019, Pakistan’s Sarfaraz Ahmed was given a four-match ban for racially abusing South Africa’s Andile Phehlukwayo.

Sarfaraz, then the skipper of the team, was heard on the stump mic during an ODI vs South Africa: “Hey black guy, where’s your mother sitting today? What have you got her to say for you today?”

Following the ban, Sarfaraz apologized for the incident on his Twitter page, also saying that Phehlukwayo himself had been “gracious enough” to accept his apology.

Moeen Ali lets it go
Moeen Ali reportedly stopped angry England teammates from lodging an official complaint after an unnamed player from the Australian team called him ‘Osama’ on the field during the 2015 Ashes series. England coach Trevor Bayliss had said that Moeen “did not want to create problems for anyone” and so had convinced his teammates to drop the matter.

The matter became in public in 2018, when Moeen wrote in his autobiography: “An Australian player had turned to me on the field and said, ‘Take that, Osama.’ I could not believe what I had heard. I remember going really red. I have never been so angry on a cricket field.”

Harbhajan vs Symonds
The dispute between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds in the 2008 Sydney Test, which became the focal point of the series, would forever change the nature of bilateral series between India and Australia.

Australians continue to contend that Harbhajan had called Symonds ‘Monkey’, a word with racial connotations in the country. Match referee Mike Procter, slapping Harbhajan with a three-Test ban, had said: “I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Harbhajan Singh directed that word at Andrew Symonds and also that he meant it to offend on the basis of Symonds’ race or ethnic origin.”

However, the Indians, miffed with the verdict, first threatened to pull out of the tour, before successfully challenging the ban. At a much-publicized court hearing in Australia in the middle of the tour, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke appeared as witnesses for Symonds and Sachin Tendulkar appeared as the witness for Harbhajan Singh, with Harbhajan being fined 50% match fees at the end of it.

However, the matter hardly ended there. Symonds later said that the racial vilification had led to him spiraling into alcoholism. In 2018, Symonds claimed that Harbhajan had apologised to him and had broken down while doing so. Harbhajan said nothing like that had ever happened and called Symonds a ‘fiction writer’.

Lehmann’s ‘biggest mistake’
In what Darren Lehmann calls the “biggest mistake” of his life, he reacted to being run out in an ODI vs Sri Lanka in 2003 by having an outburst, charged with racial expletives, as he walked back to the pavilion. His outburst was heard by the Sri Lanka team management, who alleged that he said “black c****.”

Lehmann wrote an apology to the Sri Lanka team at the end of the match and he said he had also apologised to the opposition captain Sanath Jayasuriya. Sri Lanka did not lodge a formal complaint but ICC stepped in and Lehmann was banned for five matches.

“It was a big mistake, and it was a big learning curve in my career,” Lehmann said about the incident years later.

Mahanama’s allegation against McGrath
In another incident of racial abuse on the cricket field that came to light years later through an autobiography, Roshan Mahanama claimed that Australia pacer Glenn McGrath had called Sanath Jayasuriya, the star Lankan batsman, a “black monkey”. This claim, about a match in 1996, was made by Mahanama in a book in 2001.

Both McGrath and Cricket Australia denied the claim, with the player even threatening legal action against Mahanama’s book. Australian captains Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh said the claim was a publicity stunt by Mahanama.

Mahanama said that Jayasuriya had told his Sri Lanka teammates that he had been abused by McGrath. “Glenn is a great bowler. But that doesn’t allow him to say whatever he wants to the other players,” he had said.

Courtesy The Indian Express

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