“However many of us, including myself, have bore the brunt of these delusions and have crazy stories to tell which is why it makes it even more admirable to see exceptional youngsters like @lungingidi doing his bit to represent us all. Thank you brother and all those who stand up for just causes in their own way – publicly and privately.” Hashim Amla
I have been hesitant to write this post because of the political and racially charged climate that is constantly changing but to quote Arundhati Roy – “The Point of the writer is to be unpopular.” I do not expect this piece to be popular and I have mentally prepared myself to get a lot of criticism for my opinion but I think I will be better off writing this than allowing it to stifle my soul for I know that I will not be able to move on until I complete this. I stated at the start of the series that this would be a Test series of historic significance and I was not wrong because this was more than the united stand that everyone in the ground took by kneeling on one knee which is symbolic of The Black Lives Matter but this could be the last Wisden Trophy and the first time since 1888 than England has come back to win a three-match series after losing the first Test.
The cricketing world from the Caribbean to Australia waited in anticipation for the first post Covid19 ball to be bowled because the world direly missed Test cricket. Those who turned up early were treated to a soul examining discussion between Michael Holding, Ian Ward and Nasser Hussein as well as an interview of Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent. It was powerful and filled with raw emotion with his comments on Black Life Matter, All Life Matter and White Life Matter perfectly summing up what the Black Life Matter movement is all about. His call for education to occur on both sides of the fence is essential if we all have to move forward and is saddening that it has taken the horrific and unjustifiable murder of George Floyd whose life slowly drained over a period of 8 minutes and 46 seconds to make people realise that racism, especially towards the Black community, is rampant. Yet throughout this all I cannot help feel that people of colour that exist in between the continuum are forgotten but for that, we as a community have only ourselves to blame. Kumar Sangakkara put it best in his interview with Harsha Bhogle when he said: “It’s important to teach our children history as it should be, and not the sanitised version of it.”
In 1857 a group of Indian soldiers revolted against the British which was trivialised by calling it “The Sepoy Mutiny.” It was called “The First War of Independence” by an Indian only in 1909 but more importantly, it continued to be taught in Indian schools as the sepoy mutiny even into the 2000s. Apparently in the U.K. and commonwealth, it is uncomfortably called “The Indian Mutiny” or “The Indian Revolt” furthermore it is constantly mentioned that the grease used was rumoured to be made of cow and pig fat. The fact is that beeswax and tallow irrespective of the source of the animal were used and the British should have known better after being in the country for 150 years. The Enfield cartridge was the spark that fuelled the existing embers which continued to burn even after the quelling of the revolt which caused the deaths of millions of people.
The Black Life Matters has opened up a floodgate of introspection in cricket too and it started with Darren Sammy accusing his teammates at Sunrisers Hyderabad of racism which was followed by the MCC removing the paintings of Benjamin Aislabie from display because of his slave-trading link and finally the Michael Carberry interview on Cricket Badger Podcast which every person who is remotely interested in sport must-hear. Darren Sammy, Michael Carberry and Roland Butcher have started the equivalent of the #MeToo movement but this should not start or stop with only the Black or Caribbean community but it should extend to the whole BAME community.
It can be argued that Ranjitsinhji, were Indians who played for England but India did not exist then so the first person of Indian origin who played for England after the formation of India was South African born Basil D’Oliveira in 1966 who came to England in his 20’s which means that the first person of Indian origin to play for England was Nasser Hussain in 1990 which is nearly a decade after Roland Butcher becomes the first Black person who played for England. Unless I have missed a name; Monty Panesar was the first person of Indian origin without West Indian or South African heritage to play for England who was born in England! Monty made his debut a whole 129 years after the start of Tests and nearly 60 years after the independence of India.
I am grateful to this country because I was given the opportunity to vote in this country as a citizen of the Commonwealth but I was under no illusion then or now that discrimination of all kinds exists in this country which I dearly love. I stand and sing “God save the Queen” just as I do for “Jana Gana Mana” because I cannot deny my heritage even though India has disowned me by forcing me to surrender my passport. I support England and India in cricket but I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked where my loyalties lie when both those countries play against each other. I felt that Ashwin’s dismissal of Buttler at the IPL was wrong not because I supported England but because it appears as if Ashwin intentionally delayed his normal release of the ball as stated in Law 41.16. Racism and discrimination in England whether consciously or otherwise exists and will not go away soon. I faced it when I first came into this country and even today I cannot help but wonder if confessing that I have Epilepsy or my name which reveals my ethnicity plays a role in missing opportunities. I have been called numerous names since the start of Black Lives Matter because I have said that a quota system should not exist in cricket, I have been vocal in questioning the reason why nothing was done when there were discriminatory related killings in India and for criticising Indians for saying things against Pakistanis. I have thankfully had more positive experiences than bad so I am hopeful for the future that things will continue to improve because everyone has started talking about racism and discrimination.