Sunday, December 4th, 2022 19:11:24

Racism In Reverse

Updated: July 24, 2010 1:52 pm

There is more drama than substance in Indian news channels these days. Earlier this trend was confined to the Hindi channels, but now it has spread even to the English ones. Besides, the anchors of the Indian channels behave terribly proud and display certain “know-all” syndrome. They hardly wait for their guests to answer; in fact, they give an impression as if their guests are hardened criminals and they have the divine right to interrogate the way they like and deliver judgments. They throw their own theories, which, many a time, are totally unsubstantiated.

            Recently, I had the misfortune of watching one such channel. It was discussing the episode of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar becoming the President of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the nomination of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard for the post of Vice President being rejected by the majority members of the ICC—India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, South Africa and West Indies. Howard got the support only from Australia, New Zealand and England.

            In the course of discussions, the anchor made some profound comments. Far from conducting a dispassionate analysis, he was behaving literally like a paid agent of the powers-that-be in the ICC. He asserted that Howard was a “right winger”, as if the ICC was meant for the communists and left-inclined people. And worst, he described Howard as a “rabid racist”.

            It is nothing but spurious journalism if one becomes a racist just because one cricisises the present leadership of a country like Zimbabwe, which was once under apartheid. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s President, is one of the most horrible dictators that the world has ever seen. He might have replaced the white rule, but under him, Zimbabwe, once a prosperous country in southern Africa, has become one of the poorest and violent. Naturally, the people world over have been outraged and Howard, when Prime Minister of Australia, had supported the idea of imposing economic sanctions against the Mugabe regime. But this does not make him a racist by any stretch of imagination.

            Journalism becomes extremely lopsided when a journalist does not respect Howard’s views on Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, the highest wicket-taker in the history of test cricket, that his bowling actions are not genuine and that the Australian umpires Ross Emerson and Darrell Hair were once right in no-balling Murali for his controversial bowling action. Undoubtedly, Murali is an outstanding bowler, but it will remain a debating point whether he was treated leniently by the ICC for legitimising his somewhat “throwing” the ball. The ICC changed rules for him and made it legal for bowlers to bend their arm to 15 per cent, thus giving them an unfair advantage over others. Ask Bisen Singh Bedi, former cricket captain and one of the outstanding spinners of all time, and he will tell you that he is never impressed with Murali’s record. It is like allowing a partially blind person to join armed forces as an empowering measure.

            It is not to belittle Murali’s achievements, but the fact remains that he has many critics like Bedi, Emerson and Hair. The latter two, whom Howard supported, did something that was under the then cricketing laws. Once the ICC changed the bowling rules, they accepted them. Having a different opinion is not a crime, as long as it is not violent. Just because Murali is dark complexioned and a Sri Lankan, any criticism of him is not necessarily racist. If our legendary Bedi is not a racist, how can one accuse Howard of being a racist?

            To strengthen his argument, the anchor also cited the instance of Howard antagonising the Pakistani cricket establishment for his support to Hair who was involved in the controversial fourth Test between England and Pakistan at the Oval in 2006. Hair and his fellow West Indies umpire Bill Doctrove awarded five penalty runs to England and offered them a replacement ball, allegedly tampered by some Pakistani players. Play continued until tea, but the Pakistani players refused to come out on to the field in protest against the decision. After waiting in the centre of the field for the tourists to resume, the umpires removed the bails and declared England winners by forfeit—the first time such an action had been taken in a test match.

            Subsequently, Hair was criticised for the episode and he was debarred from officiating in the ICC-affiliated cricket matches. Now, this was a step that was equally debatable. After all, the decisions in the cricket field, be it punishing for tampering of the ball or awarding the match to one team, were a joint decision of Hair and Doctrove. But here, in its wisdom the ICC took only Hair to task. If Howard did point out this anomaly, he did not commit any racist crime that our anchor friend will like us to believe.

            Notwithstanding all talks of not mixing sports with politics, the two have been inseparable. Let us admit the fact that cricket is no longer controlled by the white nations. As the Vice President, Howard would have got a chance to succeed Pawar as the next ICC President, a prospect that did not go well with Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies. And it was nothing but the number game that India and South Africa played along to cement their ties with these four cricketing establishments. It was pointed out indirectly that as a non-member of the Australian cricket board, Howard was not eligible for nomination and that he had little experience of cricket administration.

            Neither of the above points is strong enough. Ehsan Mani of Pakistan was elected ICC President in 2003 despite his not being a member of the Pakistani board. In fact, he lived in England. As regards the experience, not all ICC Presidents have been established cricket administrators. In fact, Sharad Pawar does not have any great record on this score. Pawar may have been one of India’s most successful and resourceful politicians, but his love for cricket is relatively a recent development. On the other hand, if one goes through the resume of Howard, he has been a diehard follower of the game right since his childhood.

            Coming back to our anchor, he also brought another element in the so-called discussion. Acting like an established authority on Indian foreign policy, he indicated that “racist” and the “right winger” Howard was responsible for growing attacks on the Indian students in Australia. Nothing could be further from truth. The so-called racist attacks on the Indian students is taking place under the present pro-Left Labour regime in that country. On the contrary, Howard, one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers of Australia (11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007) did promote Indo-Australia relations to reach new heights.

            During Howard’s near 12 years rule, Indo-Australian economic interactions gained momentum. India and Australia conducted joint naval exercises. It was Howard who overturned Australia’s traditional rigid nuclear policy of not dealing with a country non-signatory to the NPT and agreed in principle to sell uranium fuel to India’s nuclear reactors, saying that it would lessen the burden on fossil fuels and encourage India to join the nuclear mainstream. However his successor Kevin Rudd rescinded the plan and reverted to the previous policy of not selling to non-NPT signatories.

            Just imagine how effortlessly our television anchors make pro-India foreign leaders villains just to enliven their shows. They do not realise how in the process they are making the country lose its valuable and powerful supporters abroad. The Howard episode has not won us many friends in Australia, an important world power. It has only proved how our anchors are indulging in reverse racism. After all, it is only a racist mind that brands the likes of Howard as racists.

By Prakash Nanda

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