Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


A friend of mine and I were chatting yesterday about the racism charge against Harbhajan and the stalemate that world cricket has brought itself into in. Indian team has rallied behind their team-mate (See here). Whereas the Australians have stated their case categorically (See here). The transcript of our chat was something that I felt it might be interesting to read and here it is. It has been edited to make for easy reading.

me: hi, what's up?

PG: was reading about cricket till now :)

me: what do you think would be an honorable way of moving forward from this stalemate?

PG: From whatever i can see, Since they have no proof against Harbhajan, his ban should be revoked. Secondly, let ICC make a statement tht umpiring will improve
that's the least :)

me: Aussies will protest in case ban is revoked. And they will not keep quiet. It'll only mess up things!

PG: If was possible, would delete that TEST :)
what's the best in your opinion :)

me: Look at the case carefully. You will find that the biggest trouble in the case of any "racism" comment these days is the frivolity with which charges are being framed. Racism is a highly loaded term. And the current Indian protest is precisely on these grounds.

PG: hmm

me: Terming someone a racist is not something which can be shrugged off by banning for 3 tests or something of the kind. The historicity of the term and the complicity in making a charge without actually knowing what it entails is the first mistake that came out

PG: yes

me: and ICC should realize that if someone is being taught words which shall be considered racist remarks and there is an attempt to catch hold of these people who make those remarks it is only a matter of low intellect to look at "objective" parameters of what goes off as racist. This is precisely the mistake that Mike Procter makes. He follows the rule-book "religiously". There are cases where "objective" parameters are not the ones that shall give you the complete picture. Racism is not about use of some "abusive" references. It is about the deeply inherent hatred towards an entire race on account of their color,creed or whatever background.

PG: umm ... I see your point.

me: So, if you ask me how this thing can progress further what is required is an intellectual understanding of what it means to be racist. Trivializing loaded terms like racism, or terrorism - by using certain terms of not to be used words is nothing but asking for trouble. And this is what you are seeing. An intelligent lawyer should have known. I am surprised as to what role the ICC's lawyer played!

PG: oho

me: I am surprised how the lawyer employed by ICC was not able to do this. It is required to make Aussie cricketers understand the gravity of what they are charging Harbhajan with. And the ICC to realize that things like racism are not matters where you just write down a list of not to be used references - and keep track whether they are used or not, and go ahead and punish those who use them! Australians are players who know their rules extremely well.So, they know what comes within the scope of a rule, and what does not come in that. So when they are involved in sledging or whatever, they go by the rule. That is to say, they may end up doing those things which in spirit of the rules is not allowed..

PG: ummm

me: ..but in letter, there is nothing in the rules that prevents them from doing what they do. This is where what Anil Kumble implied: They have not played by the spirit of the game - is a perfectly valid statement. Anil Kumble and Indians, by far, with their background as Indians have a better way of understanding what things entail.
It is time that - I consider you as a racist if you call me a monkey kind of trivialization be stopped.

PG: very informative :)

me: See, this is why this controversy is of such importance. It just shows how we forget the "meanings" of what these loaded terms mean.

PG: solution (?) you propse ..

me: I thought I told you!

PG: i mean theory is fine

me: It is time that one sits back and considers how silly it is to say who is a racist and how you look at it.

PG: If i have understood ... you are suggesting to make them withdraw

me: I am suggesting that the charge be nullified. It is nullified on the grounds of bad policies adopted. The Australians be praised for having stuck to the rules.

PG: Wht about complaint against Hogg :P

me: The complaint against Hogg was more conventional. It is talking of abusing the other player. You could have probably considered Harbhajan's case also as a case of abusing another player. That is probably the right way of judging the situation.

PG: hmm..but will this happen ?

me: Well, at this stage I do not see it happening.

PG: hmm... what do you forecast?

me: This is for the simple reason that there seems to be a lot of gap of thought between the Australians and Indian thinking. When Adam Gilchrist - We're not sorry - he means it. And for all the right reasons. He does not have any malicious intentions, and he feels, so does Ponting feel - what's this fuss all about? We're playing by the rules. The rule says: Racist comments are clearly listed. If you ever use them, you are subjected to the punishment as cited.

PG: hehe

me: Also remember that Australians have not borne the brunt of racism.

PG: yes.

me: They do not know how seriously painful it is. They do not have the experience. For Ponting, racism is just another issue. Look at what Ponting says after the match:
"I have absolutely no doubt about this match being played in the right spirit," he said. "There's been one little issue that's come out of the game, otherwise the spirit between both teams in both Tests has been excellent."
What was the minor issue?
A strong case against a player on the severe charges of "racism"!

PG: yep.

me: This is the trouble. I am disgusted to see the media unable to explain the predicament of two opposing cultures both of which think they are right on their part. At least some thinkers in the media should have probably sat down to do this task. I'd expect Harsha Bhogle to be someone who would be best suited to do this.

PG: hmm... forecast? Will tour continue ?

me: The tour might as well continue. But, there may not be good relations between the two teams. There may be some compromise made.

PG: hmm

me: Though I think what is to be done now, is not the compromise, but for greater clarity on things. Clarity on dealing with the troubles of bringing troubled pasts into the modern contexts - in this case - the case of racism.

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Blogger agastyabhrata said...

"What can a coloured man - as Harbhajan is - say to another coloured man that is racial? I'm interested in that. I can understand one coloured man insulting another, but I'm not clear about how you can be racial." - Geoffrey Boycott, who as Englishman has a sense of history makes this statement whereas Ponting confirms my belief about sticking to the rule book by stating he has done what a captain should do.

Friday, January 11, 2008 6:04:00 AM  

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