Sports letter: Time to curb the jingoism of cricket commentators

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The Independent Online
From Ulele Burnham

Sir: It is not surprising that the more liberal broadsheets have responded with vigour to the inaccurate, offensive and unash-amedly racist biology of Robert Henderson.

As an avid cricket fan and West Indian supporter - West Indian nationality has been conferred on me by birth and gratefully so - I have always managed to be scandalised by the thinly veiled racism of English cricket commentators.

How many times have I choked as a result of Geoff Boycott nicknaming Curtly Ambrose "the dark destroyer"? When the sports pages lead with a reference to the "savagery" of the West Indian pace attack, I know only too well that their success is being linked more to their "primitive" racial and cultural attributes than to mastery of technique.

Yet I was still aghast when Mr Boycott lamented, during England's disastrous tour of the West Indies last winter, the difficulty faced by English (read white) batsmen when facing black-skinned bowlers. He remarked that dark hands obscuring the red ball, when combined with the sheer pace of their onslaught, proved all too beguiling for the hapless English gentlemen who occupied the crease.

It is not the inextricable links of black athletes to their past that should be under scrutiny, but the reluctance of these jingoistic commentators to relinquish their claim to preponderance in cricket, especially when England's position has been usurped by its former colonies.

Isn't it curious that whenever England loses, the Pakistanis are found guilty of ball tampering and the recalcitrant West Indians intent on exceeding the number of bouncers allowed?

If, as Mr Henderson thinks, English cricket does not need or want cricketers of Afro/Indo-Caribbean or Asian descent, then why is it that so many of my compatriots are canvassed to join English university squads, even though they admit to never having bowled anything but a tennis ball at an oil drum?

This stereotyping by selectors is the other face of racism in sports policy. Either way, people of other ethnic or racial groups stand to lose. Racism should concern all members of society, but it is not the answer to England's cricket worries.

Yours sincerely,

ULELE BURNHAM

London, E3

4 July

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