Was Andrew Symonds racially taunted at Vadodara and Nagpur, as Australian media reports claim?
Well, we do know he was taunted. What we don't know is whether the taunts were intended to be racist or a puerile and reprehensible way of upsetting an opposition player. Whatever it is, it is high time the BCCI took serious note of this. I doubt if the delinquents who taunted Symonds intended to do so because he was the team's only "black" member. Frankly, I doubt if that occurred to anyone. From an Indian perspective, he is viewed as just an Aussie — a member of a team having its way with India.
They probably targetted Symonds because of his maverick persona — he is aggressive on the field and eccentric off it. There are any number of "Roy" anecdotes. Some real — like when he was dropped ahead of Australia's loss to Bangladesh in 2005 after an all-night drinking session — and some possibly apocryphal, like when he threatened to throw sunbathing scribes into a pool after accusing them of filching his beer-holder.
People here probably don't know that he, like Hayden, has a pink bat handle because they raise money for breast cancer research. Symonds looks and behaves like a warrior of old and the zinc cream on his face only adds to that warrior-like image.
And he has been India's nemesis. The taunting was probably a few juvenile spectators' idea of having fun by trying to disconcert Oz’s best batsman. Having said that, these were stupid, aberrant acts. The BCCI should make it clear that this behaviour (abusing a player) is unacceptable.
The BCCI is notorious for not taking action against erring crowds. Which is why, for instance, a Guwahati gets a Pakistan game just a year and a half after rowdy fans broke TV equipment and set alight some stands.
Coming to racism, while many in India seem to not know that an issue exists — as evidenced by the plethora of ads that proclaim "fair equals lovely" continuing uninterrupted on every medium — in many parts of the world, bigotry of any sort is a very sensitive issue, one that needs to be handled sensitively.
And in a new, more close-knit world where information is increasingly available at the click of a button (or mouse), even the appearance of an India that is insensitive to such issues is an unfortunate signal.
The ICC has asked for an explanation. The BCCI said that it is yet to receive a letter in this regard. What kind of silly statement is that? Shouldn't the BCCI have immediately stated (post the verbal complaints by Aussie players) that they would investigate the issue thoroughly?
Instead, we had officials saying they doubted anything had occurred and that they would leave the matter to the Baroda Association.
A couple of weeks from now, Pakistan get to town. Most of their games will be played in north India. It is worrying, given how openly hostile crowds in the region have been towards Pakistani players.
"Pakistan hai hai" is probably the most charitable of comments made. In fact, Indian players would tell you that they are also often viciously abused if the team is not doing well. There is still time. The BCCI brass should really make sure strong measures are in place to ensure that rogue elements among spectators do not spoil the atmosphere or embarrass the country. To repair a sullied image is a long & painful process.