Donkeys on the cricket pitch?

Naseer Hussain made a mistake comparing Indian fielders with donkeys, but is it fair if he's referring to their pace?

Dr Amyn Malyk September 03, 2011
Nasser Hussain seems to be jumping from one controversy to another in the commentary box over the past month. First, there was a spat with Ravi Shastri which ended with Hussain saying that he was paid by the broadcasters to have an opinion, clearly suggesting that Shastri (and Gavaskar) were mouthpieces for the BCCI and didn’t have their own voice. Media caught up with this and the Indian duo got a fair deal of criticism once the story that they are on BCCI’s payroll came out.

However, this time it is Hussain’s turn to be attacked as he called some Indian players ‘donkeys’ while commentating in the one off Twenty20 match between India and England.


On the face of it, the comment seems disparaging and disrespectful to the players, and also to the Subcontinent as a whole, as coming from an Englishman it probably reminds them of their treatment as donkeys at the hands of the old colonial masters in the bygone era.

As expected, the reaction from India has been damning with former players and the BCCI voicing their displeasure and asking for an apology from Hussain. BCCI’s vice president Rajiv Shukla called the comment uncalled for and has stated that they would look into the matter.

This incident is reminiscent of at least two other incidents involving an Indian player where animal references were used.

Once, was during a row between Harbhajan Singh and Australian Andrew Symonds where the word monkey was used as a racial slur some three and a half years ago.

Another incident happened too many years ago, probably, for some of us to recall. It happened during the 1992 World Cup, during Pakistan and India’s match at Sydney. Indian wicket-keeper Kiran More got under the skin of under-pressure Javed Miandad and the image of Miandad jumping up and down as a monkey in imitation of Kiran More in retaliation is etched in the minds of those who witnessed it.


Coming back to Hussain’s comment, in my opinion, it would be unfair to look at it out of context. Hussain was comparing the fielders of the two teams and used the term donkeys in reference to slow moving fielders - a comparison that is perfectly fair. The Indian team has quite a few slow movers in the field and this fact hurts them. This is what Hussain was referring to. He was probably caught up in the moment and didn’t realize that saying what he did would create such a big uproar. Such slip ups can happen to the best of people.

Nasser Hussain is a respected commentator, who is neutral in all respect and is unlike some of the other famous commentators, in that he carries an unbiased voice. He does his job well and should be cut some slack.

Yes, he did make a mistake here, but let’s remember that Hussain is by birth an Indian and would never pass such a comment with the intention to be disrespectful.
Dr Amyn Malyk The author is a PhD student at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who likes to write. He tweets as @amynmalik
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