India’s Ravichandran Ashwin revealed that the Sydney crowd has always been abusive, historically, but claimed that this was the instance where they crossed the line and made racial remarks. On Saturday, team India launched an official complaint after Siraj was subject to alleged racial remarks.
What was one of the best Border-Gavaskar Trophy series’ in recent times turned into a stained and disgraced one on Saturday, as it emerged that multiple Indian players, notably Mohammad Siraj, was subject to racial abuse from a section of fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Indian team immediately launched an official complaint post stumps on Day 3, but there was tension once again on Day 4 as play was halted temporarily prior to Tea due to Siraj once again alerting the officials about crowd abuse. Six members were evicted from the stands, but the incident has become a hot topic of discussion since.
Few know and understand the hostility of Australian crowds better than Ravichandran Ashwin, who is currently on his fourth tour Down Under, and in the press conference post Day 4, the off-spinner came up with a shocking revelation. Ashwin revealed that Indian players have historically been subject to caustic comments from the Sydney crowd, but claimed that this time around they crossed the line, by directing racial comments towards players.
“I’d like to point out something: this is my fourth tour to Australia and we’ve had a few experiences even in the past, here in Sydney,” Ashwin said in the press conference post Day 4.
“And I think one or two times even the players have reacted and got into trouble - it is because of the crowd, especially the people in the lower tier of the stands. They have been quite nasty, they have been hurling abuses as well. But this is the time where they went one step ahead and used racial abuses.”
Ashwin made his first appearance in Australia in the 2011/12 tour as a 25-year-old, but the off-spinner revealed that while he was aware that crowds were trying to get in the nerves of the players, he, as a youngster, had little idea that the toxic comments that were passed were discriminatory in nature. The 34-year-old claimed that players in this day and age have come to understand that derogatory comments, particularly ones which are inherently racial, are unacceptable, and expressed that he was glad that Siraj took the bold - and right - move to speak out.
“If I take myself back to the first tour I came here in 2011/12, I had no clue about what racial abuse was, or how you can be made to feel small in front of so many people. And how there are another set of people who laugh along when these things happen (when you get abused). Whenever you stood at the boundary line, you wanted to move another 10 yards to evade these things.
“But as things have strode on and we’ve learnt more and more, this is definitely not acceptable. Even yesterday when Siraj brought it up, Ajinkya, myself and the others got together and reported it to the umpires. Nowadays the boys are better equipped (in understanding the nature of abuse). Even someone like Siraj, who is new, he knows that there is a certain line someone cannot overstep. It must be met the way it was met.”
Sydney is, of course, the third venue in the ongoing Test series, with India having already played in both Melbourne and Adelaide, but Ashwin claimed that the players did not cop such abuse in the first two Tests. He deemed the crowd’s actions unacceptable, and asserted that it was a disgraceful incident that ‘had to be dealt with’.
“It is definitely not acceptable in this day and age. We’ve evolved as a society. Sometimes I feel this roots back to the upbringing and the way one sees (the others). I definitely feel this must be dealt with an iron fist and we must make sure that this doesn't happen again.
“Personally I think Adelaide and Melbourne wasn’t as bad. But like I said this has been a continual thing in Sydney, I’ve personally experienced it as well. They do tend to get nasty - I don’t know why or for what reason. Unless and until it is dealt with, people don’t find the necessity to look at it in a different way. In fact I was surprised that some sections of the crowd continuously did it and they were not surrounded or pulled; that was quite surprising as well. It definitely had to be dealt with.”
The shameful off-field controversy, unfortunately, has taken away the limelight from what has been a riveting contest, but India and Australia head into Day 5 with all three results firmly possible. India, who have eight wickets in hand, will have to bat out an entire day to save the Test, but the Tamil Nadu man sounded positive. Ashwin claimed that the use of the rollers, coupled with the sun belting down, in fact, has made the pitch easier to bat on, and asserted that the visitors are hopeful of putting on a strong showing on the final day.
“The pitch has been quite slow and it has been good to bat. In fact, the balls that we saw misbehave yesterday - the ones which went up and down - have also kinda come down because of the slow nature of the pitch, and I also think the roller is playing its role. The game started off not seeing a lot of sun but as the sun is belting down, the wicket is actually getting better to bat. As a team that is behind in the game, we are very hopeful that we can put together a good performance in the first session.”