Sydney, Australia (AFP) – The alleged racist abuse of Indian players by fans at the third Test in Sydney is just the latest in a litany of similar incidents to mar sport in Australia, with authorities struggling to stamp out the problem.
Cricket chiefs vowed tough action, including bans, fines and referral to police if spectators were proven to have hurled racist taunts after two incidents on separate days overshadowed the blockbuster clash.
But it remains an ongoing, albeit isolated, issue.
Fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah were apparently targeted while they fielded near the boundary ropes of the Sydney Cricket Ground late Saturday, with reports that they were called “monkey”, among other insults.
In a second incident, play was halted on Sunday when Siraj ran from the boundary toward the umpires, pointing into the crowd. It was not immediately clear what was said, but six men were ejected and investigations are under way.
Veteran Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin said it wasn’t a new problem for visiting teams, claiming he had been on the end of “nasty” abuse across four tours to the country, with Sydney the worst.
“This has been a continual thing at Sydney, I have personally experienced it as well,” he said. “If I take myself back to my first tour in 2011-12, I had no clue about racial abuse and how you can be made to feel small in front of so many people.”
The Australia team had formed a “barefoot circle” ahead of the four-Test series against the cricketing powerhouse to demonstrate opposition to racism and celebrate Aboriginal culture.
Cricket Australia strongly condemned the weekend incidents, as did deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who said: “There is no place for racism in Australia. We are a tolerant country and the most successful multicultural nation in the world.”
But it has been an issue in Australian sport stretching back decades, on and off the field.
Former Australian Test star Usman Khawaja has previously said he was abused so much growing up that he refused to support the national side, and claimed racism once even played a role in selections for the team.
Khawaja, who immigrated as a child, battled the odds to become Australia’s first Pakistan-born national player, but it wasn’t easy.
“Getting sledged by opposition players and their parents was the norm. Some of them said it just quietly enough for only me to hear,” he wrote several years ago.
As he got older, he said Australia also grew up and “I started to understand that the minority of Australians who did treat me this way were just that, a minority”.