Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar said he never had to face racism during his celebrated international career even during major overseas tours.
Shoaib Akhtar said he never was at the receiving end of discrimination when he toured overseas with the Pakistan cricket team. Akhtar also pointed out that he never saw Pakistan players being targeted in India or the vice-versa.
Shoaib Akhtar though recalled he had faced the heat of the crowd during the Kolkata Test of 1999 which was also the inaugural Test of the now-defunct Asian Test Championship. The match on the final day had to be stopped following unruly behaviour from the Eden Gardens crowd after Sachin Tendulkar was run out under controversial circumstances during Pakistan’s 46-run win.
“No, I never had to face it (on racism). I faced it once when Sachin got run out in Kolkata and fans thought it was my fault. At that time a little bit happened. But otherwise, I have never faced it,” Shoaib Akhtar said during his interaction on Helo app.
“I was scared that I might face racism in India or people might chant slogans against Pakistan or fans might chant slogans about the Kashmir issue.
“But that never happened. And neither has this ever happened to Indian players in Pakistan. I was a bit hesitant during the 2004-05 tour to India and was scared of facing a bit of backlash from the crowd but that never happened.
“From both sides, it was a good thing. There were no religious issues regarding Hindu-Muslim or Sikh-Muslim tensions from either side.
“There was no hooting, nobody chanted any slogans relating to someone’s colour, race or religion. I didn’t hear anything about this either in India or Pakistan or in Australia.”
Shoaib Akhtar’s comments come after several cricketers have opened up about racism in the sport. West Indies superstars Chris Gayle and Daren Sammy took to social media to share their experiences of racism in cricket.
Daren Sammy had urged the International Cricket Council to speak up against racism in the aftermath of the killing of an African-American man, George Floyd during police custody in Minneapolis, US.
Daren Sammy also revealed that he and Sri Lanka all-rounder Thisara Perrera were addressed as ‘kalu’ during his stint with Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad.
In an emotional social media post, Darren Sammy urged his teammates who had labelled him ‘kalu’ to contact him and explain why they had done so during his time at the Sunrisers.
“… I instantly got very angry about it knowing now what that word meant. I will be messaging those people, you guys know who you are,” Sammy said.
“I must admit at that time when I was being called that, I didn’t know what it meant, I thought the word meant strong stallion or whatever it is, and I saw no problems because I was ignorant about what it meant.
“But every time I and Thisara Perera were called with that word, there was laughter at that moment. Me being a team man, I thought teammates are happy, so it must be something funny.”
On Tuesday, a Instagram post of Ishant Sharma from 2014 in which the India fast bowlers had labelled Daren Sammy ‘kalu’ resurfaced, corroborating the West Indies player’s allegation.