Caste in Cricket highlights its social character
Raina's casteist acknowledgment received backlash from anti-caste activists.
Siddhant Dawkare| As a video of former Indian cricketer Suresh Raina equating his Brahmin caste in embracing the Chennai culture circulated on social media, it has received a mixed response. Suresh Raina, who retired from international cricket last year has represented India in 18 Tests, 226 ODIs and 78 T20Is.
Raina was asked about his connection with Chennai and how he has embraced the culture. In reply to which he said, "I think, I am also Brahmin. I have been playing since 2004 in Chennai, I love the culture...I love my teammates. I have played with Anirudha Srikanth, Badri (Subramaniam Badrinath), Bala Bhai (Laxmipati Balaji)... I think you need to learn something good from there. We have a good administration, we have the license to explore ourselves. I love the culture there, and I'm lucky to be part of CSK. Hopefully, we will play more matches there."
This casteist acknowledgment has received backlash from various anti-caste, social media activists. While Raina’s comments gave a lot of people a moment of caste pride it has also reminded many about annihilating the caste. Twitter users with saffron flags in their name and a sword in display picture think that there is nothing wrong with acknowledging caste and one shouldn’t be ashamed of his own caste. These same people tomorrow night also claim how caste is irrelevant in a transparent and merit-based cricketing society.
In another story, Paul Adams a former South African cricketer has revealed several instances of racial discrimination by his fellow South African teammates. Paul was the only player of colour when he made his test debut. Paul mentions how being a minority player was ‘not at all fun and games’ in his 9 year long career majorly due to racial stereotyping on and off the field.
“I was called brown s*** when I was playing. It often used to be a song when we won a game and we were in fines’ meetings. They would sing, ‘brown s*** in the ring, tra la la la laa.”
“I was called brown s*** when I was playing. It often used to be a song when we won a game and we were in fines’ meetings. They would sing, ‘brown s*** in the ring, tra la la la laa,’” Adams said, adding that his wife, who was then his girlfriend, was the first to ask him why he was called that and say it was not right. “When you are playing for your country, when you have had that victory, you don’t make sense of it, you brush it off, but it’s blatantly racist. Some people will say unconscious bias and they weren’t aware but this is why we are here – to change that.”
Adams’ acknowledged that although he didn’t speak out against prejudice in his playing days, “It has been sitting in my head and I just haven’t had a platform to speak out about it”, and he was aware of the challenges and pressures of being a player of colour in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Adams remembers the special message he received from Nelson Mandela. Mandela expressed to him how important he was to his country and people. Adams represented a new generation of young black South Africans performing in the world. It hadn't been seen before.
Adams added, "I was super proud of how I got there. However, it came with a lot of pressure. There was always pressure to win the game but the pressure I am talking about is the pressure of having to outperform white players. You always felt you had to do double the effort." Very similar to what a Dalit cricketer might experience in India.
Adams, adding about the social character of cricket said, "As sportsmen, you have to play a bigger role in society, "You've got the opportunity, you've got the platform, you've got to create awareness." What might get a disagreement from Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja, who is very shy about any kind of awareness but is very active when it comes to showing off his Rajput caste. This all-rounder from Saurashtra who celebrates a sword swing with his bat tweeted “#RAJPUTBOY FOREVER. Jai hind “ days after Raina’s casteist remarks. This tweet too was flooded with similar responses to Raina’s. While some of the tweets saw an introduction to the varna system and caste-based hierarchy, many others poured heart emojis crowning Jadeja as a proud Rajput in the Indian cricket team.
Time after time, our beloved cricketers have given us reminders about how they’re not so different from us.
Time after time, our beloved cricketers have given us reminders about how they’re not so different from us. As the popular notion goes ‘caste is in the breath of every Indian’, cricketers once in a while take a deep one.
Paul Adams suggested a greater education to ensure people of all races are treated with respect going forward. Similarly, in India, there is a need for mass movement towards the annihilation of caste that starts with stopping the glorification of caste. Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja might choose this as their new goal in life.