There is no masking what happens in the name of banter on the field. The fact of the matter remains that cricket needs not only gender sensitivity lessons but also, a class on racism, a perennial problem in other global sports as well.
The recent telling comment came from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) who denounced the International Cricket Council (ICC) for not merely slapping Sarfraz Ahmed on the wrists but instead banning him for four matches in the face of comments he made that alluded to the colour of the skin of one of the South African cricketers in the course of the second day international in Durban.
In some ways, it highlights not only how politically incorrect and morally insensitive cricketers can be but also, of how blind the cricket boards can be in addressing issues of such grave concern that look to divide people. While it is good that the cricketer did apologise for his comments publicly, it was interesting to note that he mentioned that he had not intended for anyone to hear those comments caught on the stump microphone. The fact that those words were even added suggests a myopic view wherein the cricketer in question thinks that if his words were not heard, it was still alright to utter them.
Cricket boards are dealing with a rapidly evolving world that has put money right in the center of the equation, changed the way platforms have evolved in terms of player interactions, have brought peril to the doorstep with social media becoming more of a bane than a boon and is blinding even the most seasoned of cricketers from refraining themselves from making public gaffes as Virat Kohli did during a fan interaction around Diwali. In a sense, it is quite the conundrum that while the Indian captain’s comments about ‘leave India’ came in a social setting and not on the cricket field, but still targeted cricket fans, that there was not enough done publicly to reprimand him as a manner of setting the example and also, that he virtually got away. Whether that speaks to the fact that he holds such a pivotal place in the hierarchy of the dressing room or the fact that India have been overbearingly dependent on his bat, it is something that the BCCI needs to look inwards to introspect. In sending mixed messaging, the already confused modern cricketers – evident in the jarring conversation on the couch between Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul and the rather loud host of the show, are not getting the compass bearings right. Perhaps they had never been taught to read the arrows, not until they were firmly pointing south.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hardik Pandya appeared to be emulating the swagger while understanding nothing of the culture and heritage of colour and racism as he went all out bragging on a television show. The fact that it was not in an international match is perhaps what would make the Indian all-rounder think he has dodged a bullet on this one. However, if the quantum of punishment as adjudged by the ICC is anything to go by and the BCCI takes a cue from it, Pandya may be facing similar time away from the game. But with the BCCI in such a state of confusion, Pandya may still be thanking his stars.
What it brings to light is that sport as a bridge has a long way to go. It may have connected people and brought them together in its evolutionary nature. But in terms of emotional and cultural maturity, cricket has a long way to go from checking the hem of the women presenters’ skirts and not their knowledge as a merit of their worthiness to present on television and letting cricketers confuse notoriety with popularity and think they are far too big to be labeled themselves.