NEWS
11/01/2021 9:07 PM AEDT | Updated 15/01/2021 12:26 PM AEDT

Racism At The Cricket Is 'All Too Familiar' To These Indian Australians

"I’ve made the conscious choice to avoid going to Australia vs India cricket matches for the last few years."

As authorities launch an investigation into allegations of racial abuse of the Indian cricket team during the third test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), many Indians say racism is “all too familiar” to them in Australia. 

The Indian team lodged an official complaint after play on Saturday after bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj complained of hearing racist slurs while fielding near the boundary rope.

On Sunday, Siraj approached the umpire pointing towards the stands and the action was paused as police ejected six fans from the ground.

Ryan Pierse via Getty Images
Indian players look to towards a section of crowd where an alleged abusive comment was directed at Mohammed Siraj of India during day four of the Test match in the series between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 10, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. 

Vision has since emerged online of several people in the stands chanting “Siraj”, though others have claimed they could hear racial abuse in the background, while some say spectators called the sportsman ‘Shiraz’ instead of Siraj. 

“Siraj was referred to as ‘brown dog’ and ‘big monkey’, both of which are racist slurs. The matter was immediately brought to the notice of on-field umpires. They were constantly abusing Bumrah too,” an anonymous source from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) told Press Trust of India.

A spectator who was sitting near the fans who were ejected told the Sydney Morning Herald, “All these boys were doing is a bit of sledging of the player on the outfield.

“They said, ‘Welcome to Sydney, Siraj’ and then he got the s**ts. That was literally it. Then he walked off.” 

Cameron Spencer via Getty Images
Mohammed Siraj of India stops play to make a formal complaint to Umpire Paul Reiffel about some spectators in the bay behind his fielding position during day four of the Third Test match in the series between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 10, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. 

Australian-born Khushaal Vyas, whose parents migrated to Australia from India in the 1980s, said “racism is all too familiar at the cricket” and that he hasn’t been to a local Australia versus India game in over five years, after witnessing racism each time he previously attended. 

“As much as I absolutely love cricket, I’ve made the conscious choice to avoid going to Australia vs India cricket matches for the last few years now primarily because I can’t remember a time where I attended such a match without hearing some kind of racist comment in the crowd (whether it was aimed at players or other spectators),” Vyas told HuffPost Australia.

“There’s no worse feeling than baring the uncomfortable silence and disappointed sighs from your parents, extended family and ethnic friends while you’re trying to enjoy a day out together, only to overhear the same ‘Go back to where you came from you smelly curry’ that you heard last time India was playing.” 

Supplied/Khushaal Vyas
Australian-born Khushaal Vyas, whose parents migrated to Australia from India in the 1980s, said he hasn’t been to a local Australia vs India cricket game in over five years after witnessing racism each time he previously attended. 

Writer and anti-violence campaigner Tarang Chawla said making “excuses” for the spectators’ alleged comments was unacceptable. 

“It is reported that the men who allegedly abused Indian cricketer Mohammed Siraj at the SCG were ‘just making fun of his his name’ by calling him Shiraz. Siraj means light. It is always a dark day when we make excuses for racism,” he tweeted. 

Chawla then shared an example of a time he was racially abused because of his name.

“We’re taught to be scared to stick up for ourselves and to stay in out lane. When I was a kid, Tarang became ‘orangatang’ in the name of ‘sledging’,” he wrote. “When I told them I wasn’t a monkey, they laughed at me. They changed to using their fists instead of their words.” 

Like Vyas, Indian Australian model and former Miss Universe Australia Priya Serrao said she’s “disappointed but not surprised” by the alleged incident. 

“Anyone that’s ever been to a cricket match, especially India vs Australia, would know about the kinds of comments that get thrown around,” she told HuffPost Australia. 

Comedian Nazeem Hussain said he’s witnessed racial comments made at not just Australia vs India matches, but games involving other South Asian teams.

“Can’t remember attending a single Aus V Sri Lanka/India/Pakistan/Bangladesh cricket match where the chant ‘SHOW US YOUR VISA’ has not been chanted. No exaggeration. Uncles respond by waving credit cards,” he tweeted. 

Serrao said more subtle “racist microaggressions” are just as damaging as overt racism. 

“My name has two syllables and is phonetic so you’d think it’d be pretty simple to pronounce,” she said.

“But not only is it often mispronounced, people also show no interest in clarifying or confirming the correct pronunciation.

“If I’m ever unsure about how to pronounce a person’s name I simply ask that person. When there’s no such effort made, or if people go out of their way to mispronounce it and make you feel like an ‘other’, it’s a racist microaggression.”

Instagram/priyaserrao
Priya Serrao

Cricket Australia’s Apology

Cricket Australia has launched a parallel investigation with New South Wales Police, promising to take the “strongest measures” against anyone found guilty of vilification.

“It is most regrettable that an otherwise excellent test match contested in tremendous spirit by two friendly rivals has been tarnished by the actions of a small number of spectators over the past two days,” Head of Integrity and Security Sean Carroll said in a statement.

“As hosts, we once again apologise to the Indian team.”

Venues New South Wales, which operates the stadium, said CCTV footage was being reviewed to assist the investigation and any fans identified as engaging in racial abuse would be banned from the SCG and other major stadiums in Sydney.

India’s Ravichandran Ashwin said the team had been insulted by Sydney spectators in the past but the racial abuse had crossed a line during the match, which is being played in front of a reduced crowd of less than 10,000.

“It is definitely not acceptable in this day and age. This must definitely be dealt with iron-fist and we must make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the bowler said.

Cameron Spencer via Getty Images
Police monitor the crowd following a complaint by Mohammed Siraj of India about spectators during day four of the Third Test match in the series between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 10, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. 

Asian Australian advocacy group, Asian Australian Alliance, would like to see the spectators in question permanently banned from attending any cricket matches.

“We need to send the right messaging to the world that there is no place in Australia, and in particular the sporting sector in Australia, for any racist behaviour and that Australia is a welcoming country for visitors, particularly from Asian backgrounds,” said Molina Asthana, head Victorian Convener for the Asian Australian Alliance.

“As a sporting nation we need to demonstrate our commitment to protecting human rights and creating safe spaces for foreign athletes and teams.”

With files from Reuters. 

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