The slip of the tongue that cost former Australian batsman Dean Jones his job as a TV commentator for TenSports may have been unintended, but there can be little quibble with the consequences that he has had to face. In today’s charged global environment, the remark ‘the terrorist got another wicket’ when Muslim South African batsman Hashim Amla took a catch is bound to have repercussions. Jones’s unqualified apology notwithstanding, he becomes the latest entrant to one of cricket’s most dubious halls of shame.
But then the ‘R’ word has been associated with cricket for a long time and if it’s more prominent now, it’s probably thanks to the media. It’s no longer England captain Tony Greig’s infamous prediction in 1976 that England would make the West Indies ‘grovel’, or a Viv Richards-led West Indian team furiously reacting to it and ‘Blackwashing’ the series. In fact, some of the racist slurs used today by Australians against coloured teams would put a Marcus Materrazzi to shame.
Yet, the more things seem to change, the more they remain the same. And while administrators of games like football at least pay lip service to the cause of anti-racism, cricket authorities seem to be stuck in a ‘hear no evil see no evil’ mode. Otherwise why did the ICC recently hand a mere five-match suspension to Australian Darren Lehmann for calling Sri Lankan cricketers ‘black curs’? If the ICC were really serious about stamping out racism from the game, a life ban would have been more appropriate. In any case, correctives like fines are obviously no answer. Better bets would be match bans, reduction of runs or even handing over matches to the opponents.