The Daren Sammy incident where he called out his teammates for racism has left a bad taste in the mouth of true cricket lovers. Without naming his teammate, who turned out to be Ishant Sharma, Sammy put out an Instagram post, following the Black Lives Matter protests that has intensified following the death of George Floyd, a resident of Minnesota at the hands of a local police officer.
However, Sammy isn’t the first cricketer to face racial taunts on or off the cricket field. Free Press Journal looks at the ugly side of cricket that show the world how much of a gentlemen’s game it actually is.
But before we even get into the incidents of racism, let’s even look at some cricketing terms that – despite the obvious racist overtones – have continued to be part and parcel of the game. One popular example is the ‘Chinaman’, the term given to a left-arm wrist spin bowler. For those who follow the game, the left arm off-spinner is either called ‘slow left-arm’ or ‘left-arm orthodox’. Players like India’s Kuldeep Yadav, South Africa’s Paul Adams, and Australia’s Brad Hogg have been some of the cricketers who have popularised this style of bowling. The origins of the term ‘Chinaman’ reportedly originates in 1933 when Ellis Achong, a player of Chinese origin, had batsman Walter Robins stumped of the ball that turned the other way. As he walked back to the pavilion, Robins reportedly said to the umpire, "fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman!", leading to the popularity of the term in England, and subsequently, in the rest of the world.
While there is no official documentation of whether Achong was the first, cricket historian Abhishek Mukherjee had written a piece where he said, “The term existed before Achong bowled that delivery, as Wikipedia user Sarastro excavated from the vast trove of 1920s Australian newspapers.”
In 2017, Andrew Wu, an Australian journalist of Chinese descent, raised concerns of the term being ‘racially offensive’. Wisden formally changed their wording of the term to slow left-arm wrist-spin in the 2018 edition of the Almanack, describing it as "no longer appropriate" – although it would have probably been taken off the list earlier if the Chinese cricket team was in the top-10 list of ICC Test teams.
Coming back to the racist overtones in cricket, while Sammy is the most recent revelation, here are some others that will never be forgotten.
Tony Greig in 1976: During the 1976 West Indies tour of England, England captain Tony Greig, who grew up in South Africa, proudly claimed that the West Indies would ‘grovel’. Notably, this was the first series after the West Indies lost 5-1 in Australia, and Clive Lloyd announcing that the ‘nice boy’, ‘Caribbean cricketer’ image that the West Indies had created for itself, would be over. Michael Holding, who was still in his rookie years, gave a bowling display of a lifetime at The Oval, where other bowlers from both sides struggled. Holding in the famous documentary Fire in Babylon admits that he and the other West Indian fast bowlers pushed for extra pace when Greig came into bat.
Allan Border: In his autobiography Marshall Arts, cricket great Malcolm Marshall recalls how he and his teammates faced racism while they played cricket. In the chapter titled ‘Racial taunts’, Marshall writes about one incident where Australia was playing the West Indies and captain Allan Border was batting. Joel Garner the bowler on the other end bowled a bouncer that missed Border’s face. The Australian captain responded with, “You black f***.” Marshall says Border was lucky that it was Joel, who despite being 6.8” was the gentlest bowler in the side. Garner just put his hands on his hips and walked back to his mark-up to bowl the next ball.
Sunil Gavaskar: During the 1976 Jamaica Test match, the one right after India successfully chased 400+ runs in Trinidad to become the first team to win a Test match chasing that score, the West Indian pace quartet was relentless and bowled a battery of bouncers at the Indian batsmen. It came to a point when Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi had to declare despite trailing the West Indies, saying he couldn’t risk his batsman getting injured. While the West Indies was criticized for this, Gavaskar in his autobiography ‘Sunny Day’s describes the Jamaica crowd as ‘Barbaric’ and ‘Savages’ in the chapter ‘Barbarism in Kingston’.
Harbhajan Singh: The most famous tale of racism when it comes to the Indian team, Harbhajan Singh allegedly called Australian batsman Andrew Symonds ‘a monkey’ during the 2008 Sydney Test. While Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar, who was batting at the other end, have denied the allegations, claiming that Harbhajan had said ‘teri maa ki’, Symonds and a large section of critics believe that Harbhajan got away easily during the time. While the two cricketers have made amends for that incident, it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Geoffrey Boycott Part 1: In his book Marshall Arts, Malcolm Marshall describes Yorkshire cricket club, where England opener Geoffrey Boycott, played most of his county cricket, as a place where racism was predominant. Boycott is living proof. In the first instance of his racism, the England opener, who became a popular commentator in India, was in the commentary box for a India-Zimbabwe series. I recall Harsha Bhogle and Ravi Shastri in the box with him, and they were talking about Zimbabwean seam bowler Mpumelelo Mbangwa. There was a struggle in pronouncing his name, so Boycott said, “let’s call him the coloured laddie.” Both Bhogle and Shasri looked stunned, but because it was live TV regained their composure and laughed it off.
Geoffrey Boycott Part 2: Boycott again. In 2017, Boycott landed in trouble after suggesting he would be more likely to get a knighthood if he ‘blacked his face.’ “Mine’s been turned down twice,” Boycott said. “I’d better black me face,” said Boycott, who has charges of domestic violence against him. Boycott was finally knighted in September, 2019 by the Theresa May government.
Dean Jones: Australian batsman Dean Jones, who has also risen into prominence as a commentator, landed in trouble during a match between Sri Lanka and South Africa. Hashim Amla, who was bowling to Kumar Sangakkara, managed to get his wicket. Jones, who was in the commentary box said, "the terrorist has got another wicket". Jones was dropped for the remainer of the series, and even issued an apology for the same, saying that he had the ‘highest regard’ for Muslims and that many of his friends ‘were Pakistani cricketers’.
Sarfaraz Ahmed: Pakistan ODI captain and wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed was banned for four matches by the ICC for his racist attack on South African batsman Andile Phehlukwayo. When Phehlukwayo came out to bat, Sarfaraz was heard saying on the camera, “Abey kaale, teri ammi aaj kahaan baitheen hain? Kya parwa ke aaye hai aaj?" Translated literally that is: "Hey black guy, where's your mother sitting today? What [prayer] have you got her to say for you today?"
Ishant Sharma: While he hasn’t been named by Daren Sammy, Ishant Sharma’s Instagram post showcased that he referred to Sammy as ‘kalu’. While the two have made amends, as Sammy’s tweet on Friday suggests, it’ll be a long time before racism ever leaves our lives.