“We Won’t Play…”: Ajinkya Rahane Recalls How Indian Cricket Team Reacted After Mohammed Siraj Was Racially Abused In Sydney

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India’s 2-1 Test series win in Australia in 2020-21 remains one of the major milestones in the country’s cricket history. It was not just about the victory but also the way the Ajinkya Rahane-led Team India made a glorious comeback in that series. After the Virat Kohli-led India lost the first Test, the then India captain returned home for the birth of his child. Rahane took over as the stand-in captain and led the team to a brilliant win. India won the second Test in Melbourne and then drew the third Test in Sydney. Despite the absence of several senior players, India won the series decider in Brisbane.

However, the series was also witness to Indian fast bowler Mohammed Siraj being racially abused by a section of the spectators in Sydney. After the third day’s play in that Test, the Indian team management complained to the authorities about the unsavoury comments that came their way. It continued the next morning too and Team India complained to the umpires. The Play got suspended for ten minutes, and some people were evicted from the stands.

Rahane has now revealed the full episode. “When Siraj again came to me (on the fourth day), I told the umpires (Paul Reiffel and Paul Wilson) that (they) need to take action and we won’t play till then,” Rahane was quoted as saying in an ESPNCricinfo report on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai on Wednesday to launch a documentary on that series.

“The umpires said that you can’t stall the game and can walk out if you want. We said that we are here to play and not sit in the dressing room and insisted on getting the abusers out of the ground. It was important to support our colleague given the situation he had been through. What happened in Sydney was completely wrong.”

The Cricket Australia later confirmed that there some of the Indian players were abused racially.

“CA confirms that members of the Indian cricket team were subjected to racial abuse,” CA integrity chief Sean Carroll said in a statement.

“CA’s own investigation into the matter remains open, with CCTV footage, ticketing data and interviews with spectators still being analysed in an attempt to locate those responsible. CA’s investigation concluded that the spectators filmed and/or photographed by media in the Brewongle Stand concourse at the conclusion of the 86th over on day four of the Test did not engage in racist behaviour.”

Ravichandran Ashwin, who was part of that Indian team, said on Wednesday: “I don’t think it has anything to do with a particular section of people in a particular country. Everywhere people do believe that they belong to a majority sort of a thing and they will have their way. And I think racism is one tip of it, where people believe that is a way of differentiation with someone. The only solution is better parenting and better awareness.

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“Yes, it happened at that ground [SCG] and at that place [Australia] a lot more. But it was courageous of him [Siraj] to bring it up so at least a wider section of people know and the people sitting next to such people in the ground do better next time.

“It is something one must condemn. But I want to bring it up that everywhere people are differentiating people on different grounds, which is not right.”

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