Two “unacceptable” incidents of abuse in two consecutive days at the Sydney Cricket Ground have prompted widespread condemnation from ex-players and coaches and an apology from Cricket Australia to the Indian team, reports The Guardian.
Play was temporarily stopped on the fourth day of the Australia-India test at the SCG on Sunday after Indian quick Mohammed Siraj complained to the umpires about comments from crowd members in the stand near where he was fielding, according to the report.
The umpires, security officials, and police all investigated and six men were escorted from the ground shortly afterwards. Play was halted for about eight minutes, the British newspaper says.
India captain Ajinkya Rahane and Siraj alerted the umpires to Sunday’s incident in the stands, according to the report.
Umpires Paul Reiffel and Paul Wilson had a long debrief with Indian players and then spoke with ground staff, trying to get to the bottom of who was responsible for the alleged comments directed at boundary fielder Siraj, reports The Guardian.
A group of India’s players also walked towards the boundary while Australia’s captain Tim Paine - who was batting at the time - joined India’s team huddle, the report notes.
Police focused on a group of four fans and another pair in the crowd who left their seats and walked out of the stands alongside the two officers, according to the report.
It was the second incident in as many days. On Saturday, senior players approached the umpires as they walked from the field, complaining of racist comments understood to have been made toward Siraj and fellow Indian quick Jasprit Bumrah, the British newspaper reports.
Teammates could be seen offering their support to Siraj, as they spoke to security and match officials while pointing towards the fine leg fence where he had been fielding, according to the report.
India’s coach, Ravi Shastri, Rahane and vice-captain Rohit Sharma then remained out the front of their dressing room for around 20 minutes after play on Saturday, the report notes.
The trio spoke to ground and International Cricket Council officials, including match referee David Boon, before Siraj and Bumrah also came out and spoke to security staff. Security staff were also seen talking to members of the crowd where Siraj had been fielding after play, but there is no suggestion the matters are linked, The Guardian reports.
Following Sunday’s incident, Cricket Australia issued a statement saying the International Cricket Council was investigating the matter reported on Saturday, according to the British newspaper report.
“Once those responsible are identified, CA will take the strongest measures possible under our anti-harassment code, including lengthy bans, further sanctions and referral to NSW police,” Sean Carroll, Cricket Australia’s integrity chief, was quoted as saying.
Cricket Australia’s statement only referred to Saturday’s incident, according to the report.
“As series hosts, we unreservedly apologise to our friends in the Indian cricket team and assure them we will prosecute the matter to its fullest extent,” Carroll was quoted as saying.
CCTV footage was being reviewed to assist the ICC, and if those involved in Saturday’s incident were identified they would be banned from the “SCG and all Venues NSW properties”, The Guardian reports.
The incidents prompted shock and outrage more broadly, according to the report.
Indian cricket legend VVS Laxman described the alleged abuse as “very unfortunate” and “rubbish”, saying there was no place for it in the game, according to the report.
“Very unfortunate to see what’s happening at SCG,” he was quoted as tweeting. “There is no place for this rubbish. Never understood the need to yell abuse at players on a sporting field ... If you’re not here to watch the game and can’t be respectful, then pls don’t come and spoil the atmosphere.”
The Guardian cited its cricket writer, Geoff Lemon, as saying it was a “national shame” that alleged abuse was directed to Indian players who had given up months so that the Australian cricket summer could continue through Covid-19.
Tom Moody, an Australian cricket coach, commentator and former international player, described the behaviour as unacceptable and called for it to be dealt with harshly, according to the report.
“Unacceptable behaviour there is no place for racism, I hope this is dealt in the most severe way,” he was quoted as tweeting.
The SCG capacity has been reduced to around 10,000 people per day, with minimal people sitting in each area, The Guardian reports, citing the ICC as saying it was awaiting the match official’s report before commenting on the matter.