Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Sledging and Racism - that's not Cricket

I'm not a great follower of the game, but I couldn't help noticing cricket hit the regular news headlines over the latest Harbhajan Singh racism controversy. And this has also brought to the fore another pernicious aspect of the game - sledging. From what I understand, the world of cricket has Australians to thank for introducing that charming practice of unnerving your opponent through persistent verbal abuse.

Cricket used to be considered a gentleman's game. But these latest controversies show that there are some things that need fixing (and I don't mean matches).

Sledging should become unacceptable, and players indulging in it should face sanctions. The Australian team in particular should be put on notice that they're not winning any friends with this practice, even if they win matches. Sledging makes victories hollow.

And Indians need to understand that racism can cut both ways. As an Indian, I am aware of my countrymen's involuntary adoption of 19th century British attitudes, which leads to a fawning admiration of white people and a less-than-equal treatment of people of Asian or African appearance. Indians will often treat another Indian worse than they would a white person. As India globalises, it is time for Indians to confront their anachronistic attitudes to race and begin to treat all humans alike.

If sledging and racism are eliminated from cricket, it would go back to being a gentleman's game - and I could go back to ignoring it!

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