Language: the glorious crown jewel of human evolution. The advance that so elevates our species - that allows us to exchange information, to cooperate on a mass scale, to tell stories that swell our hearts, to sing songs that bring us to tears, to encourage, to empathise, and to express that most sublime of all human emotions: love. Or, alternatively, also the thing several cricket people used to make casually racist and offhand sexist comments over the last two months.
Sarfraz Ahmed was overheard by the stump mics using the word "kaale" - a pejorative for darker-skinned people - to refer to Andile Phehlukwayo, in a recent ODI. Initially Sarfraz tweeted a statement that claimed his comment was not intended for anyone in particular (note to Sarf: it's actually more offensive if it was directed at an entire group of people, rather than just one), and that he had not intended for the comment to be heard, even though the words came out loud, out of his mouth. After this statement was received poorly, Sarfraz upped his game, releasing a picture of him shaking hands with Phehlukwayo, with the explanation that Phehlukwayo had accepted his apology. When even this failed to kill the story, Sarfraz and the PCB were willing to take part in official conciliation with CSA, but unfortunately, before this sense of intensifying regret could result in Phehlukwayo getting a car or a small apartment from Sarfraz, the ICC stepped in and slapped a four-match suspension on the Pakistan captain.
Apology upcoming? We've got you covered
Also having to issue public apologies over the last six weeks were former Australia cricketer and Fox commentator Kerry O'Keeffe, who suggested on air while India were pummelling the Australia team that canteen staff could be good enough to play in India's first-class teams; and the pair of KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya, who made sexist comments on a TV show, and will now have to face an inquiry. Drawing inspiration from those regretful public statements, the Briefing has sought to make it easier for any future cricketing "offenders", by drawing up this apology template.
Dear cricket public,
I am deeply and sincerely apologetic about the way in which my remarks have been interpreted (Note: subtext should be that your words were perfectly innocent). It was not my intention to cause upset (suggest it was only when your statement reached your readers or listeners that your words collected offense particles residing in the ear canals and optic nerves of those people, en route to their brains).
I wish to draw attention to the fact that through the course of my career, I have shared a commentary box / professional dressing room / Facebook friendship / adjacent urinals with the likes of Viv Richards (if you offended Afro-Caribbeans) / Harsha Bhogle (if you offended South Asians) / Makhaya Ntini (black Africans), Lisa Sthalekar (women and minorities in Western countries double whammy) / Ian Botham (old grumps) / Paras Khadka (all Associates + miscellaneous). I have tried yoga and order medium spicy sauce at peri-peri franchise chicken restaurants. I am also a proud parent of three young daughters (regardless of perceived crime, it never hurts to mention daughters).
Those of you familiar with my work know that I have a quirky sense of humour, something my loyal listeners / fans / mother will attest to. I also take complete responsibility in feeling regret that you personally didn't get it.
I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me for this one-off comment (though, if you have done the above properly, it should be obvious by now there is really nothing to forgive). I hope that, like Herschelle Gibbs with that Steve Waugh catch in 1999, we can let this one slip.
The unfairly accused
(If this apology is received badly, not to worry. We have another statement, with slightly different tone and wording, that may be issued in order to apologise for this apology.)
In his statement O'Keeffe had mentioned he had spent "months" practising the India players' names before eventually tripping up over them on air, but commentating half a world away at the Bangladesh Premier League, Tino Best has not put in that much effort, nor, to be fair, has he pretended to. Best was the television presenter at the toss in the first match between the teams led by Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza, where it became clear that he did not know something far more fundamental than how to correctly pronounce players' names. "It's a great Friday here in Dhaka," Best boomed, "as I welcome the two teams, Dhaka Riders [actually Dynamites] and Rangpur…." he paused, pointing assuredly at captain Mortaza until he provided the team name: Riders. Best then called the match referee Rangpur Paul [actually Debrabata Paul], and seemed so confident through the whole thing that you can imagine he retired to the back of the commentary box, put his feet up, lit up a cigar, and reflected on a job well done.
Wisely cutting back on banter
Tim Paine was a rare example of a cricketer whose words did not actually land him in trouble over the past two months, after the stump mics picked up several of his sledges to India batsmen, including a suggestion to Rishabh Pant to come babysit his children in Hobart. Paine was clearly trying to shake India batsmen out of the intense focus with which many of them batted in a historic series for the visitors. When Sri Lanka arrived to play a Test, at the Gabba, however, Paine was subdued behind the stumps, shouting only the regular encouragement at his own team-mates. Because why try to shake Sri Lanka out of their game plan, when it obviously is to give away their wickets at the first available opportunity, and all at once if possible.
Next month on the Briefing
- O' Keeffe realises that he should have just waited to crack that infamous joke about the railway-canteen staff playing first-class cricket, because no one in the world would argue that Sri Lanka's domestic system is not unequivocally shithouse.