Monday, 7 January 2008

On sledging, racism, animal references and double standards

It took a New Year Resolution and injustice on the cricket field to get me to post to my blog.

Enough has been said about the umpiring and the Aussie attitude in the test series.

The important thing is that the rules should be the same for both the sides and they should be made explicit before the game starts.

So if Virender Sehwag is suspended in South Africa for appealing for a taking a catch which wasn’t then should Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke be. Or are the rules different for different sides.

If most sledging is OK but some terms are deemed racist therefore some forms of sledging are not acceptable while others are - then let the ICC publish the rule book of sledging - what sledging is OK and what is not, with illustrated examples, a dictionary etc. "Sledging for Dummies" or "Sledging - a Users Manual" are two possible titles for the tome.

For instance - it is apparently OK for Glenn McGrath to ask a West Indies batsman what a certain part of Brian Lara’s anatomy feels like because it is a non racial macho Aussie thing to say – basically gutter level personal abuse is OK in the gentleman’s game but not anything to do with race. We in India need to be educated in the tradecraft - we are but beginners in the subject.

Or should action be taken against all forms of abuse.

For the record let me state that calling someone a monkey does not have racist connotations in India – in fact a monkey is a revered animal here and one of the major Indian Gods is the monkey God Hanuman. However that is no defense since calling a person of African descent a monkey does have racist overtones and carries with it offensive historical baggage relating to the way people of African origin were regarded by their white colonial masters whose descendants today are railing against racism, and who resisted breaking off cricketing ties with a South Africa under Apartheid till they had no choice, (the very foundation of the colonial age was built on a notion of race superiority - ask the Tasmaninian Aborignes), and therefore this should not be done – but maybe many in India do not understand the sensitivity of the matter. Is there a cultural gap here.

The joke doing the rounds in India is that when an Australian child learns to say the word “Mother” for the first time the parents say “Two cheers. Junior has learnt half a word”. For the Australian team to complain about sledging and occupy the moral high ground on this issue is a bit thick.

I guess they were getting a taste of their own medicine in the World Cup 20-20 and in India and were perhaps suffering from some not inconsiderable indigestion as a consequence.

Harbhajan made a mistake if (and only if) he referred to Andrew Symonds as a monkey. Wrong choice of animal mate - you should have used a reference to some other noteworthy mammal to respond to Symonds’ abuse - swine or dog come to mind as possible candidates - they are pure insults and carry with them no racist overhead. For good measure add on “non-monkey”. After all you cannot possibly be called racist if you say someone is not a monkey. “You mother*%$#ing, snivelling, lilly-livered, non-monkey, son of a swine” logically ought be acceptable sledging in the ICC and Australian lexicon.

This error by Harbhajan (if he indeed called Symonds a monkey) gave the Aussies a handle to turn the tables on the Indians by raising the racism issue. The Indians need to learn from this and refine their sledging strategy. It needs to be more nuanced and must take into consideration the subtler shades of meaning of various insulting and abusive terms and what they mean in different cultural contexts - someone in the Indian camp needs to think this through. India needs a specialist sledging coach (anyone for Gregg Chappell for this position - after all he is Australian and should be good at it).

But be happy India - in colonial times it took the word of ten Indians to overturn the testimony of one white man. Today you need to have two white witnesses to overturn the testimony of one Indian.

The world is indeed getting more and more flat. Indians have been accepted as honorary whites - capable of racism against people of African origin, which was earlier the preseve of whites only.

Feels a bit odd though - white people accusing Indians of racism.

But have we heard the last of this.

We have a situation where a white match referee (from a country that till very recently practised the worst form of racism as state policy) takes the word of two white witnesses (who are not neutral) over that of one Indian witness (who is not neutral) and without any independent witness or corroborating evidence (no video, no audio, nothing heard by the umpires – can’t blame the umpires though they seem to be deaf as adders and blind as bats and just in case this is a racist slur I voluntarily ban myself from selection for the Indian team for the foreseeable future) bans an Indian player (who the white Australian captain finds himself incapable of playing and so will benefit from this ban, and it was this Australian captain who insisted that the racism charge be laid at Harbhajan’s doorstep).

Hmm. Food for thought perhaps


Anonymous said...

hi Sanjeev, good to see you back blogging again... I hope whatever happnes to the cricket team you are going to stick to the new year resolution...... Subho

Anonymous said...

passion for cricket is written all over the article .. i think it is the most fascinating take on the cricket anomalies that happened yesterday....this article is definitely one for the Indian CRICKET fans...

Cricket Guru said...


One Word - Superb!

Anonymous said...

According to the BBC India alone drives 70% of the global cricket revenue. Time to throw our weight around a little. Why shouldn't we have sledging banned altogether?

straight point said...


i guess you wold be perfect for the post of sledging coach of india...don't waste time mate...

Eye of The Tiger said...

Hi Sanjeev,

I got to know about you from a business magazine. Just checked your blog. I must say that your article on "racism" should server as eye opener for BCCI. Having a specialist sledging coach should really work for Indian Cricket Team while playing against Australia and England.


Amit Sinha said...

good to see you back on blogosphere.
That the ICC has got it all wrong by introducing a highly paid tourist called match referee is apparent. in the earlier days the men would have slugged on the field and got on with it.
the aussies are like high school bullies - can't take it when given back - run to momma with a complaint.
also in case of symonds and co, there is plain jealousy at the amount heaped on the T20 winners - plots, flats, cash awards etc. symonds mentioned it in a column. we can understand the feeling when we see men with ordinary/ inferior abilities get better pay and lifestyles in the developed world.

Shaun Press said...

I watched the India v Australia One day match the other night and now I'm in a dilemma. How do I, as an Australian fan, react to Gilchrist being given out after edging it into his pads, and Tendulkar not walking after clearly nicking it to the keeper. As I don't wish to appear to be a whinger (or god forbid a cry-baby), what is the appropriate form of comment? Can anyone help me, please?

SanjeevBikhchandani said...


You are absolutely right. Those two umpiring decisions were bad ones.

What I have written about is not the umpiring but the double standards of the Australian team when people sledge back at them. I found that particularly galling. Either don't dish it out or else take it like a man when you get it back.

To my mind however - all sledging whether racist or otherwise should be banned and perpetrators should be severely dealt with.

As far as the umpiring is concerned - there were nine wrong decisions in the Sydney test with eight of them going against India. Nine wrong decisions in one game is really third rate umpiring. Eight out of nine going against one team - statistically speaking it looks like a bias.

Two wrong decisions in a game and both going against Australia is very different from nine wrong in a game and eight going against India.

Sachin not walking is fine. He is not a walker and neither does he pretend to be one. I am OK with a batsman not walking so long as he does not pretend to be a guy who is the most honest in the game.

Adam Gilchrist on the other hand has the halo of being the cleanest guy in the game - yet he appealed for the Dravid catch in the second innings.

I have no problems with fielders appealing when they know it is not out (Indians do it all the time). But then they should not pretend to be the cleanest guys in the game as Adam Gilchrist does.

I don't like pretenders.

Michael Clarke not walking when being caught at slip is qualitatively different from Sachin not walking when caught behind. It is almost like a batsman not walking when he is clean bowled.

I have no problem with Ricky Ponting claiming a catch that clearly touched the grass. What I do have a problem with is his behaviour at the press conference when he told a bare faced lie that he had not grounded the ball, his arrogance when ticking off an Indian journalist who had the temerity to ask him a question about that appeal and the totally false claim that the Australians had played "hard but fair". One more pretender. You simply cannot claim catches that were not catches and then aggressively brag about your fairness.

By all means claim false catches but don't try and occupy the high moral ground about your sense of fair play.

I have a problem with the fact that Sehwag gets banned for appealing for a catch in South Africa but Australians don't.

I have a problem with hypocrites, with pretenders, with liars and with biases.

I also have a problem with incompetent umpiring. And yes there were two wrong decisions in the last game and yes at least one may have made a difference to the game.

And I also have a problem with the immature manner in which the BCCI made public statements to browbeat the ICC and Cricket Australia into conceding to their demands.

These negotiations should be held behind closed doors and no bullying should be done through the media. You need to put forward your point of view but you don't need to humiliate people.

It was wrong.

I also believe that the BCCI should have voluntarily banned Harbhajan for one test or two ODI's once it became clear that he had escaped a ban only because of human and database errors and the judge himself acknowledged that a one test ban would have been more appropriate.

But who can expect such statesmanship from the BCCI.


Anonymous said...

We definitely need to learn the art. The best sledge for the aussies in local lingo is POME (Prisoners of Mother England). Obviously, gutter language means nothing for them as that is where they originated.