The Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) announced yesterday that it had temporarily suspended its tour of Australia after Harbhajan Singh was banned for three matches for allegedly racially abusing Andrew Symonds.
Symonds is Australia’s only black player and was recently the subject of racist barracking during Australia’s tour of India.
The Australian team has alleged that Singh called Symonds a “monkey” in a heated exchange during the second Test in Sydney. The Indian team denies that any racist language was used. The suspension and subsequent row brought effigy-burning crowds onto the streets of many Indian cities.
With the third Test due to begin in Perth on January 16, India has put cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), under intense pressure to deliver a compromise. Cricket is big business, especially in India where 70% of cricket’s global revenue comes from. In this respect the BCCI holds the ICC over a barrel.
The BCCI would however face a $2 million fine if it pulls out of the tour with two Tests remaining; therefore it is highly unlikely that the tour will be called off. Cricket Australia could also lose as much as $50 million if India withdraws and the governing body would have to pay compensation to the television broadcasters.
From a big business point of view this controversy has been nothing but good. It has been the top story on all of the main news stations and has been on both the front and back pages of most papers. When the third test goes to air on January 16, it will enjoy very healthy television ratings making big business advertisers extremely happy.
Racism in cricket is not something new; it’s just that it has usually been the Australians that have been dishing it out! In 2003 Australian batsman Darren Lehmann became the first international cricketer to be banned for racial abuse. In 2005 there were also two separate incidents where South African players complained of racial abuse from Australian supporters.
In 2006 the former Australian player, Dean Jones, described Hashim Amla, a South African batsman, as “a terrorist” during what he thought was an off air ad break. The comments actually went to air and Network Ten were forced sack Jones immediately.
Racism in cricket is not something separate from the racism that exists in general society. It is just a more public example and an extension of the problem. Socialists are opposed to racism in all forms and condemn any racist comments that are made on or off the field.
There is nothing wrong with friendly competition between players or fans but divisive language and behaviour should be opposed. Racism is a barrier to ordinary people uniting against exploitation and oppression, even in sport. When it comes to cricket, a much better strategy would be for fans to campaign together against both racism and against the big business control of the game.