It was almost a year-and-a-half ago, but the memories – and scars – are fresh, of Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah being racially abused by spectators during the Sydney Test.
“[We] insisted on getting the abusers out of the ground,” Ajinkya Rahane, India’s captain then in the absence of Virat Kohli, recalls telling the umpires, while R Ashwin feels Siraj, especially, showed courage in making people aware of what was going on.
After the end of the third day’s play in that New Year’s Day Test, the Indian players spoke to the match officials about the abuse that had been hurled at them, and when it continued the next morning, the Indians alerted the umpires. Play was suspended for ten minutes, and a group of people were evicted from the stands before the game could continue.
Rahane revealed that the umpires – Paul Reiffel and Paul Wilson – had asked the players to go back to the dressing room if they didn’t want to play, but India insisted on getting the spectators ejected and carrying on with the Test.
“When Siraj again came to me [on the fourth day, after being abused the day before], I told the umpires that [they] need to take action and we won’t play till then,” Rahane said on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai on Wednesday to launch Bandon Mein Tha Dum, a documentary on that series that India won 2-1 in dramatic circumstances, which will air on streaming service Voot Select later this month.
“The umpires said that you can’t stall the game and can walk out if you want. We said that we are here to play and not sit in the dressing room and insisted on getting the abusers out of the ground. It was important to support our colleague given the situation he had been through. What happened in Sydney was completely wrong.”
Although the evicted spectators were cleared of any wrongdoing by Cricket Australia, the incident left a bad taste in the mouth.
“Personally I think Adelaide and Melbourne weren’t as bad. But this has been a continuous thing at Sydney. I have experienced it as well. They do tend to get nasty,” Ashwin had said after playing a heroic hand with the bat, in the company of Hanuma Vihari, to help India draw that Test.
Addressing a general discussion on racism in sport, Ashwin said on Wednesday, “I don’t think it has anything to do with a particular section of people in a particular country. Everywhere people do believe that they belong to a majority sort of a thing and they will have their way. And I think racism is one tip of it, where people believe that is a way of differentiation with someone. The only solution is better parenting and better awareness.
“Yes, it happened at that ground [SCG] and at that place [Australia] a lot more. But it was courageous of him [Siraj] to bring it up so at least a wider section of people know and the people sitting next to such people in the ground do better next time.
“It is something one must condemn. But I want to bring it up that everywhere people are differentiating people on different grounds, which is not right.”