India veteran Ravichandran Ashwin claims he has been the victim of abuse from Sydney crowds for almost a decade, as Australia’s acting prime minister supported Cricket Australia and the NSW police for launching investigations into allegations of a racial slur during the third Test.
Crowd incidents overshadowed both days three and four at the SCG.
India’s team made official complaints of racism after stumps on Saturday and play was stopped for eight minutes on Sunday following claims of more alleged abuse. At this stage, there is no suggestion the two incidents are linked, but it is believed India will assert Sunday’s abuse was again of a racial nature.
At least seven fans were removed from their seats after Mohammed Siraj ran in from the fine-leg boundary, alerting teammates before umpires passed on the message to security and police.
However, Ashwin said this had long been an issue. “This is my fourth tour of Australia and in Sydney, we have had a few experiences even in the past,” Ashwin said. “The way the crowd have been speaking … they have been quite nasty and hurling abuse as well. There is a time where they have gone one step ahead and used racial abuses.
“There was an official complaint lodged yesterday and the umpires said we must bring it to their notice as it happens on the field. It is definitely not acceptable in this day and age. We have seen a lot and evolved as a society … this must definitely be dealt with an iron fist.”
CA on Sunday night labelled the abuse of players as “unacceptable” and apologised to the Indian team. NSW police, having interviewed several members of Sunday’s crowd before evicting them, is also running its own investigation.
The SCG Trust has stated it will ban any fans caught hurling racist taunts after examining video footage from the end of day three.
Ashwin, meanwhile, said he had been made to feel “little” by Australia’s crowds in the past. He argued the SCG was worse than other grounds.
“If I take myself back to my first tour in 2011-12, I had no clue about racial abuse and how you can be made to feel small in front of so many people,” Ashwin said.
“And the people actually laugh at you when you get abused, I had no idea what this was about. When I stood at the boundary line, you wanted to stand another 10 yards in to keep yourself away from these things.”
India captain Virat Kohli tweeted his reaction: “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. The incident needs to be looked at with absolute urgency and seriousness and strict action against the offenders should set things straight for once.”
Australia’s players moved to act in solidarity with the Indian team on Sunday. The captain, Tim Paine, joined them in their huddle with the visibly upset Siraj while play stopped, while Moises Henriques walked around to the bay in question.
The Australian coach, Justin Langer, said after play that he was hurt by the incident and extended his apologies.
“It’s upsetting and disappointing,” Langer said. “It’s one of my greatest pet hates in life that people think they can come to a sporting event … and think they can abuse or say whatever they like. I hated it as a player, I hate it as a coach.
“It’s really sad to see it happen in Australia. The more you get educated and the more you understand, the more sickening it is when you hear of racial discrimination as has been alleged today.”
The acting prime minister, Michael McCormack, said “there is no place for racism in Australia”.
“I am pleased to see the strong and swift action taken by the NSW police and ground officials,” McCormack said on Sunday night. “We are a tolerant country and the most successful multicultural nation in the world. Australia’s performance in this Test so far has been very solid – the team won’t be distracted by this as they push on to victory.”
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, denounced the alleged slurs.
“If those reports are correct, those comments should be utterly condemned,” she said in a statement. “They are un-Australian and don’t represent who we are.”