English Cricket Racism Row: Educate & Learn – Need of the Hour

Umpires and Jason Holder in recent times have called out the ECB for their ways of dealing with racism in the sport.

4 min read
Ollie Robinson’s Test debut was marred with a suspension after racist and sexist tweets from him before emerged. 

A Test debut at Lord's, and that too the 100th for the home team England, is always special. Ollie Robinson though, made the occasion even more memorable with the wickets of Tom Latham and Ross Taylor on his first day at work.

But before he could properly enjoy the highlight reels of his first day at work, he was dragged down memory lane, as his past actions came back to haunt him.

A series of racist and sexist tweets from 2012 and 2013 by the 27-year-old emerged, resulting in the England Cricket Board taking swift and just action as they suspended the bowler “pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation.”

While how the ECB ties up the loose ends with Robinson is what they need to get absolutely right, the Board’s also been alerted, over social media by fans mostly, about more of such tweets from other English cricketers.

James Anderson, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler are among those whose old tweets – that may not be as caustic but could be seen as hurtful – have surfaced since, thanks to the moral police on social media, forcing the talk around inclusivity and diversity well into the background, temporarily.

Remember the 'moment of unity' before the England-New Zealand Test started and Robinson’s world was turned upside down?

Racism in English cricket is well documented, whether it be in recent times or in the past, and the ECB is treading on eggshells in the matter.


Second Chances

An 18-year old Robinson’s tweets are distasteful in nature without doubt but much like society and narratives around stereotypes have changed over the years, the cricketer too seemingly has taken that route.

Coming down harsh on Robinson sends the message that non-inclusive behaviour is not going to be tolerated in the sport, a much-needed one, but as important is sign of being able to forgive; if the perpetrator has, in fact, managed course correction.

“If he has done something like that nine years ago, and since then he has learnt and he has done nothing like that and he has changed his ways in recent years, then I don’t think you should come down too hard on him. You don’t allow him to continue playing, like on Thursday, while an investigation is going on at the same time, because if you find out things that are horrible coming out in that investigation. But do it quickly, let’s get it over with quickly,” Michael Holding, who’s speech in the Black Lives Matter debate won a BAFTA, said on Sky Sports.

The need of the hour is not to address what was written by Robinson but to fix a thought process that resulted in such action. Has that been fixed? Or are there more skeletons in the cupboard waiting to fall out?


‘The Ugly Truths’

The importance of fixing the situation quickly and efficiently is not lost on anyone as English cricket tries to keep up with societal change.

While Robinson’s career may have been handed a major setback, the ECB have been notified of bigger names to address one week later. These players may not be as easy to suspend and in that could be the real test for England cricket – was it a knee-jerk reaction to outrage and are there a variety of rules?

If Robinson is one chapter of the novel, the others too need a round of proofreading, because repeat episodes put a spanner in the works in the fight against racism.

An empathetic solution to the situation would stay in line with what England captain Joe Root said before the Test at Lord’s, “We know the start of last summer unearthed some ugly truths in society and in our sport. We have spent a lot of time talking about how we can better our game and how we can educate ourselves more.”


Acknowledging the Problem

While cricket at the highest level really put the spotlight on racism after Darren Sammy and Michael Holding spoke out, the English have acknowledged the issue before the century turned over.

Back in 1999, the ECB, who have not invited a fair amount of criticism in how they have dealt with racism, acknowledged the problem with a study that revealed that 58 percent of those consulted believed the problem existed while some more believed the problem is ingrained.

Umpires and even Jason Holder in recent times have called out the ECB for their insincere ways of dealing with racism in the sport.

And while England’s cricket board navigates its way out of a spot of bother, it’s important that cricket too take stock as racism and misogyny aren’t acceptable in any decade.

Don’t address the elephant in the room and there’ll be more such instances, maybe far uglier, which is likelier to drive a new fan away from the game than the five-day format.

Should the said players undergo mandatory counselling and even stipulated hours of social work, because if there is acknowledgement of a problem, the next part of the procedure requires unlearning the issue.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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