It did not take long for the Australian commentators to make a remark about Cheteshwar Pujara’s name as India’s Test series began in Adelaide on Thursday.
India captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat in the opening day-night Test against Australia in Adelaide on Thursday. The Indians won their maiden series in Australia in 2018-19, including victory at the Adelaide Oval, and the hosts are gunning for payback.
On air with Fox Cricket during the first session on day one, former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne referred to the nickname given to Pujara during his county cricket stint with Yorkshire. The remarks were made casually, discussing with fellow commentators that Cheteshwar is not the easiest name to pronounce and Pujara was called Steve by his teammates in the English side.
Warne seemed to have missed that fact the issue is in the news, and certainly not as a joke.
On December 5, former Yorkshire captain Azeem Rafiq had filed a legal complaint against the English team after claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race. It has been an ongoing controversy in English cricket and one that is under investigation.
According to ESPNcricinfo, two former Yorkshire employees – Taj Butt and Tony Bowry – had recently provided evidence against the club which has institutionalised racism.
“(There were) continuous references to taxi drivers and restaurant workers when referring to (the) Asian community,” Butt, who was employed within the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation as a community development officer, was quoted as saying by the cricket portal.
“They called every person of colour ‘Steve’. Even (India batsman) Cheteshwar Pujara, who joined as an overseas professional, was called Steve because they could not pronounce his name.”
Butt tendered his resignation within six weeks of joining.
During India’s tour of Australia in 2018-’19, senior commentator Kerry O’Keeffe was criticized for his remarks surrounding the pronunciation of Pujara’s name.
Pujara had said earlier that it was a nickname given to him by him teammates at Yorkshire because they could not pronounce his first name.
“Well I would prefer Cheteshwar, but it’s difficult to pronounce so the guys have come up with Steve,” Pujara is quoted as saying by ESPN in this cricket.com.au report in 2018.
“But personally, I would prefer Cheteshwar. Jack Brooks started off with this. He couldn’t pronounce my first name so he was asking me what nickname do I have. I said I don’t have any.
“So they said, ‘we will start calling you Steve’. Initially, they started calling me ‘Puj’, but they have started calling me Steve again. It’s a good nickname, but I prefer Cheteshwar.”
Rafiq, who played for Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, is also claiming victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club. The 29-year-old, once the youngest captain in the county’s history, initially spoke out in August about the racist abuse and has now taken legal action.
“Those who have, like me, been on the receiving end of racism and discrimination will understand how hard it is to open up about the pain and suffering it causes,” Rafiq said.
“I feel a sense of relief to finally speak about it and that my healing process can now begin.
“I hope this claim will give me the closure I need and that the recommendations from the tribunal will help bring about change for our future generations in cricket.”
The law firm representing Rafiq, Chadwick Lawrence, said the claim, which has gone to the Leeds Employment Tribunal, sets out the “expressly racist dressing room banter” Rafiq and other non-white players experienced.
This included the use of terms such as “P**i”, “elephant washer”, and telling such players to “go back where you came from”, the firm said.
Rafiq said Yorkshire ignored his complaints of racism and victimisation throughout 2018 and the severe mental health issues he suffered as a result of his treatment by the club included depression and contemplating suicide.
Yorkshire commissioned an independent law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, to investigate Rafiq’s allegations of institutional racism earlier this year.
(With AFP inputs)
Warne’s comments did not go down well on social media: