Australia is embroiled in an ugly racism row after India players claimed they were subjected to bigoted insults from spectators.
Day four of the third cricket test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday was interrupted as India’s Mohammed Siraj stopped play and told umpires he was targeted with racist remarks by fans.
Six spectators were escorted from the ground and Cricket Australia issued an apology to the India team and said it would ‘prosecute the matter to its fullest extent’.
However nearby fans said there was ‘nothing abusive’ about the comments from the ejected fans, and it was ‘just bantering’.
Indian cricket player Mohammed Siraj (centre) claimed on Sunday he was on the receiving end of racist remarks during day four of the third test between Australia and India
Siraj stopped play to make a formal complaint to officials about some spectators in the bay behind his fielding position at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday
Six men were ejected from the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday and escorted from the venue by police
India captain Virat Kohli, who is back home to be with his expectant wife, was incensed by the incident and took to Twitter to demand more action against crowd abuse.
‘The incident needs to be looked at with absolute urgency and seriousness and strict action against the offenders should set things straight for once,’ Kohli said on Twitter.
‘Racial abuse is absolutely unacceptable. Having gone through many incidents of really pathetic things said on the boundary lines, this is the absolute peak of rowdy behaviour. It’s sad to see this happen on the field.’
Cricket Australia’s Head of Integrity and Security Sean Carroll insisted the matter will be dealt with.
‘The abuse of cricketers by crowd members is not acceptable,’ he said. ‘We thank the Indian team for their vigilance in reporting today’s incident, which we are now in the process of investigating.
‘It is most regrettable that an otherwise excellent test match contested in tremendous spirit by two friendly rivals has been tarnished by the actions of a small number of spectators over the past two days.
‘As hosts, we once again apologise to the Indian team.’
Police were called in to remove the six men from the ground after the formal complaint was made by Siraj
Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli (pictured with his wife) said the incidents at the Sydney Cricket Ground were ‘unacceptable’ and ‘pathetic’
Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is no stranger to sledging and abuse from Australia cricket spectators, but he said this was one step too far.
‘They have been quite nasty, they have been hurling abuses as well, but this is the time they have gone one step ahead and used racial abuse,’ all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin told Sky Sports.
‘It is definitely not acceptable in this day and age. We have seen a lot, right? We have evolved as a society. This must be definitely dealt with an iron fist. And we must make sure that it doesn’t happen again.’
Boria Majumdar, a prominent Indian sports journalist, reported on Sunday that Siraj was called a ‘brown dog’.
Kohli expressed his fury after players were allegedly subjected to abuse in Test against Australia
Siraj and Bumrah had made it known to the umpire on Saturday that they had been targeted verbally by fans and they, along with stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane, brought it to the attention of Cricket Australia officials at the end of play.
But more incidents followed on Sunday, and Siraj reported it to the umpire and pointed to a section of the crowd near where he had been fielding at fine leg.
‘Siraj bowled a poor over the over before and he came back to have a drink and someone in the crowd goes, “you do not deserve a drink, as you bowled a poor over”, and Siraj got to the boundary and gave the bird to the crowd, middle finger,’ a spectator told The Daily Telegraph.
The publication reported police sources indicated the comments were more of a heckling nature than racial abuse.
One spectator who was sitting in the Brewongle Stand, where the alleged abuse came from, said ‘it didn’t make sense’ for police to throw the men out of the oval.
Rishi Aryan said spectators were just doing ‘a bit of sledging’ to the outfield players, firstly Jasprit Bumrah and then Siraj.
‘They kept calling him Shiraz and all that crap. Next thing you know they said: “Welcome to Sydney, Siraj” and then he got the sh**s. That was literally it. Then he walked off,’ Mr Aryan told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Another spectator confirmed hearing the ‘Welcome to Sydney’ remark.
Others said some were singing Que Sera, Sera by substituting the main lyrics by using Siraj’s name instead.
India’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane reported the racial abuse incidents to the umpires
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin says the crowd went one step too far in their abuse