With Richie Benaud gone, why is racism still a problem in cricket?

Written by T. H. e and A. s

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Nearly 200 years after Captain Arthur Lancashire famously told a malicious joke about one of his fellow players, ergo, “Arnold, please,” English cricket seems to have lost its way.

You can hold your nose in the dressing room and laugh through it, or you can cry, because the episode sounds increasingly unlikely to be the last in a league littered with “colorful episodes.”

The problem has resurfaced after a minute’s silence at Lord’s for Richie Benaud, the former Australian cricket captain and television commentator, who passed away last month at the age of 83. The national anthem performed before Benaud’s final Test match — played in Southampton on his home ground — involved references to slavery.

Commentator Nick Knight, a regular fixture on Sky Sports News, had first proposed the song’s lyrics after his team, Lancashire, beat Durham with a five-wicket victory that gave them the chance to secure the County Championship.

Knight’s “colourful episodes” include removing a short piece of fabric with “Abbott’s emblem” on it — this suggested the colour of the skin of Lancashire fast bowler Glen Chapple, who had played for Australia and New Zealand before captaining the county.

Lancashire were involved in another racially sensitive episode in July 1998, when they reacted furiously to a line of a newspaper column suggesting they were “fortunate” to have “a darkie” in Chapple as their captain.

The player became only the second black man to captain a first-class English cricket team when he took over from the retired John Snow.

England was once hailed as the “land of the free” but according to the latest report from Sport England, published in March, only 21% of cricketers in England can claim to have never experienced a discriminatory comment on the field.

Cricket has made some significant strides in recent years in its attempts to combat racism in the game.

In the past three years, England have been unlucky not to have beaten West Indies in an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) international between the two sides. In 2016, Pakistan came within just one wicket of pulling off a whitewash victory over England.

However, an ECB racism report last year revealed “inconsistencies” in its current campaign against racism. The report also showed that racial abuse, even just verbal attacks, was not as prevalent on the field as it might seem.

England can perhaps be proud of its achievements against both West Indies and Pakistan. (West Indies will face New Zealand next month in an ICC World Cup warm-up game. The final is held on Feb. 28, 2019.)

The ECB has devoted almost 1,000 hours of broadcasting and post-match interviews to tackling the problem since launching its anti-racism campaign in 2014. The sports governing body has also created a “Dear John” hotline for people to raise concerns.

“Since launching our ‘Dare to Be Different’ campaign we have doubled the number of complaints relating to allegations of racism in cricket to over 340,” the ECB said in a statement, revealing a breakdown of the complaints.

“Just under 30% of the reports have come from opposing teams.”

“Hearing the complaints from supporters has given us the impetus to improve and equip our staff to spot and report any future incidents,” an ECB spokesperson said.

“In 2014, following formal discussions with the Football Association, we decided to undertake this work alongside its anti-racism campaign. This decision was made after hearing of a campaign by the FA to educate players on racism.”

Following the receipt of calls last month from PCA (Professional Cricketers’ Association) members to address racism in the game, ECB’s Professional Cricket Partnership (PCP) committed to an Action Plan to reduce the issue by 20% by the end of next season.

However, according to PCA Assistant General Secretary Derek Brewer, more needs to be done in an age of social media.

“There are people in our game who don’t want to read or look at images of people of color, and if this continues I believe that those people will hurt the game in the future,” he said.

“We need to look at this in an holistic way. If we don’t look at the reasons behind people of color who can’t play, then we will never stop that inequality.”

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