Monday, 22 November 2021


Between the ages of 16 and 50, I spent a lot of my weekends playing cricket. Over the past week I’ve been thinking about racism in cricket. I experienced hardly any racism although I was once described as a “honky” by a West Indian fielder. 

Back in the 1980s the power of the West Indian teams was such that any racist remark by someone stupid enough to make it would have resulted in some lightning fast short-pitched bowling aimed at their helmetless heads. One player in county cricket stood out. Wayne Daniels. He was called “Sir”.

200 Cricket ideas | cricket, sport of kings, sports

The most enjoyable cricket I played was when white players were in the minority, when talent was what counted, where sheer unbridled joy in the game was what stood out.

But there was a remark in the Azim Rafeeq hearing that stopped me. It came from one of the Yorkshire Cricket Club Board. It said that “Asim lacked White Rose qualities and attitudes”. This made me shiver.

A person with his hand on his face

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I recalled a particular cricket dressing room. The smell of BO and Brut, old unwashed kit spread around and a laddism that would have been at all levels unacceptable today. It was ghastly then, but it represented the cultural language of our team. It was misanthropic, misogynistic, homophobic, satirical, cruel, and crude. Almost certainly it was racist too. Everyone had a nickname – none of them pleasant. There was team-bonding and a slightly hysterically fueled hatred of our opponents. This was the same credo as the Allan Border-led Australian team of the late 1980s. He was known as “Captain Grumpy.”

Happy Birthday Allan Border - Interesting Facts, Trivia, And Records About 'Captain  Grumpy' On Cricketnmore

Dressing Rooms like Board Rooms can be dangerously self-deluding places. Last week has at least corrected that impression.

What bewilders me is anyone thinking racism is acceptable in 2021 yet the people who ran, and presumably some who still run cricket in Yorkshire, think it is acceptable, or maybe worse, they don’t even realise that they are being racist.

In the 1980s advertising had a slight smell of -ism about it. A black art director who liked his photography to be dark and moody who was called the Prince of Darkness. He seemed amused – but was he? A team at Saatchi & Saatchi who dressed as ‘The Blues Brothers’ – trilbies, dark glasses, black suits, white shirts, narrow black ties. They grimly told their clients they were “on a mission from God”. 

This was a world of alcohol, drugs, and beautiful women. It made ‘Mad Men’ look rather underpowered. It was not so much an -ism as a world in which to be politically correct (I’m not even sure we even knew what that meant back then) was to be out of step.

Mad Men: Shop the Mid-Century Look

Now, not to be politically correct is to be unemployable. It isn’t good enough to say the right things, you must not even think the wrong things. The result of last week’s hearing will be an upheaval in sporting governance, not just that of cricket. In Friday’s Times, Sports Columnist Matt Dickinson said:

“There’s no other word for it: the way we run sport is nuts”   

 He’s right. The comments of many of the leaders in cricket fill me with dread. Sport is no longer an amateur business. For better or worse (mostly if run well, for better) the money floods in to allow world class talent to be properly rewarded.

This is what happens if you don’t understand this simple truth. 

Sunder Katwala on Twitter: "My @EasternEye column on cricket & race.  The 'banter' defence is collapsing under political and sponsor pressure -  including from @sajidjavid @julianknight15 @DanJarvisMP et al How can  cricket

Money matters but our self-respect matters more. Our world has changed. We need to change with it or become just a footnote in history.

Cricket RIP.

Hopefully not.

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