Richie Benaud’s decision to uphold the ban on Herschelle Gibbs will hopefully send the right message; that abuse, of any kind, has no place in cricket. That Gibbs, after first admitting to his offence, appealed and actually managed to play a Test, is something the ICC needs to look into. The ICC should arrange for an Appeals Commissioner to be able to hear the appeal rightaway.
For too long, players have got away with abuse. Though Gibbs may not have meant it racially, there is no room for that kind of language on the field. If anything, Gibbs was lucky that in the series against India, he wasn’t pulled up by the match referee for showing Sourav Ganguly the way back to the pavilion. That was an offence in the ICC Code of Conduct.
Unfortunately, that series saw some strange refereeing, where Sreesanth was warned by the umpires not to talk to the batsmen and Andre Nel got away with more. Racism is a touchy subject, especially in South Africa. With the history that the country has, there are still remnants of racism and it is pretty obvious from the comments one gets to hear off and on.
While Gibbs will now have enough time on his hands to ruminate on how he should look to improve his vocabulary, there is no such comeuppance for former players who can get away by saying similar things and providing facile explanations later.
Barry Richards’ explanation as to why he said Dale Steyn has an “Indian fragility” when he comes back for his subsequent spells, was one such incident. The former South African, who now lives mostly in Australia, said that if it had been England who had been touring, then he would have used the term ‘English fragility’.
The question is, how did he come to the conclusion that the Indians were fragile, while it was the South Africans who were dismissed for the lowest score in the series — 84 in the Johannesburg Test. And even if Barry Richards was referring to the second innings of the last Test, did he forget that India had scored over 400 runs in the first innings? So where does “Indian fragility” come in?
His explanation does not take away the fact that with those words he typified a nation and a community, especially in South Africa. There’s no ICC to haul him up, but hopefully Indian companies, be it media or other companies, will think twice about using a person who is so dismissive of the Indians.
Only if that happens will India show that it is ready not to take any nonsense from anyone. Richards is also the President of the FICA, which is desperately trying to woo the Indian players to join its fold. Here again, one hopes that the Indians, led by their skipper, will show pride in being Indians and not join an organisation that has as its president, someone who has little respect for the Indians.
In any case, the Indians would do to think about the 2002 Champions Trophy, where they got no support from the FICA. They fought the imaging rights battle with the ICC, and won it only because of the united front they put up and had their own former players taking up the fight for them. Joining the FICA will only give that organisation a power that is more likely to be used to get more for its non-Indian member countries. The Indians are certainly better off having their own player organisation. If their relation with the BCCI is good and smooth, they don’t need to join anybody else.
There is a lot of dust being kicked up over the new contracts and all that. Really, with the kind of cricketing schedule that’s there, the players should leave it for others to deal with it and focus only on cricket. At this stage, with the World Cup just weeks away, the Indians don’t need any distractions. And if they win the World Cup, which I have a sneaking suspicion that they will, then they can have the sun, the moon, and the universe.