Some believe that if you pay your hard-earnt to get into the ground, then you suddenly have the right to say what you want and act like a yobbo.
Not true, I say. Not true!
Australian crowds have a long history of verbal banter from the sidelines. But like sledging on the field, where is that magical line?
As always, the answer may not be as easy as we think.
Because of events that transpired at the SCG, we have a distressed Indian team. At time of writing there seems to be an ongoing investigation into allegations of racial abuse from the crowd, some of whom have been dubbed the ‘Sydney six’.
At the same time we also have members of the crowd pleading innocence. There is a balance of believing the Indian players and respecting their right to the truth, but there is also the principle of being innocent until proven guilty.
Whatever the case, I think we can or at least should all agree that racism has absolutely no place in the game (and in society for that matter) whether on the field or in the crowd.
But what about heckling that borders on abuse and then becomes verbal abuse? As of now, there are allegations of verbal abuse in Brisbane directed at the same player who copped it and something much worse in Melbourne.
From a personal experience, what seems to happen at the cricket as the day goes on and the plastic cups pile up empty on the concrete floor is that the heckling can at times nudge on and then become abuse. They become words that are used to demean. Sadly I have heard this from time to time.
Things then become uncomfortable for those trying to sit, watch and enjoy the cricket. For mums and dads at the cricket it can take the joy away from what should be an exciting family day out with the kids. For those working at the ground, when heckling becomes abuse it automatically becomes a more challenging work environment, as security guards et cetera are charged with stamping out this type of behaviour.
So when we are talking about the mark of respect, it’s not just for the players; it’s for our fellow spectators and those working at the ground.
And spare a thought for the players. They are trying their best to play cricket, in this case for their country. They are used to a bit of heckling and banter and these days almost expect it, but abuse is not something they neither deserve nor should expect.
Imagine a person working a desk job or on one of the many tradie sites in Australia and having people on the sidelines abusing them. How long would that last? Some will say that the players are well paid and signed up for the job willingly – but they didn’t sign up for abuse.
This is where the mark of respect should come into it. Speaking purely about the Indian team here, let’s have a think about some of the things they have experienced on tour.
They lost there inspirational skipper after one Test, who understandably went home for the birth of he and his wife’s first child. Keep in mind this is a gentleman who averages over 50 in Test cricket.
Then players start going down one after the other in what seemed like a steady stream of broken bones, strained hamstrings and battered and bruised limbs, leaving players stretched out on dressing room floors that resembled an emergency room.
There have been other internal challenges. Mohammed Siraj lost his father at only 53 years of age. It’s a heartbreaking experience, but here he is putting on a show for Australian punters.
The Indian team deserve our respect for the way they have gone about their business of putting on a wonderful spectacle of Test cricket sustaining injuries, disruptions and tragedy, all the while existing in a COVID-19 bubble.
This is real Test cricket, even five-day Test cricket, which was once thought to be lost to the history of the game in this country. This has been a Test series of ups and downs on the field, of great theatre and intrigue. This has resulted in some of the most exciting cricket seen on these shores in recent memory, resulting in happy and rejoicing fans.
But let’s leave out the abuse and just enjoy the spectacle. Whether it’s racism or abuse, the mark respect should be evident. Just leave it out!
Hats off to India. You’re welcome anytime.