'Unacceptable': Shane Warne sparks racism storm over India player's name

Andrew Reid
·5-min read
Pictured here, India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and Aussie Test legend Shane Warne.
Shane Warne came under fire for referencing a controversial nickname for Cheteshwar Pujara. Pic: Getty/Fox Sports

Shane Warne has come under fire from the cricketing public after referring to one of India’s star batsman by a nickname that many find offensive and racist.

Impending captain Ajinkya Rahane's schoolboy error gifted Australia control of the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval, where India slumped to 6-233 at stumps on day one after Virat Kohli's needless dismissal.

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However, it was Warne’s stint in the commentary box that became one of the biggest talking points of the day, and in particular, his reference to Cheteshwar Pujara’s nickname as "Steve".

Warne was discussing with his fellow commentators that the nickname was commonly used for Pujara by his former Yorkshire teammates in English county cricket, because his first name was too difficult for them to pronounce.

Pujara has spoken about the nickname previously, admitting he would have preferred to be called by his actual name but had to settle for “Steve” because Yorkshire teammates struggled with it.

It comes amid a dark period for Yorkshire cricket, which has been accused of institutionalised racism, with former England under-19 captain Azeem Rafiq claiming he was targeted racially during his playing days therre.

During Thursday night’s broadcast, Warne referred to Pujara as “Steve”, prompting viewers to slam the Aussie Test great for being “unprofessional” and reinforcing casual racism.

The outrage comes after Rafiq filed a legal complaint against Yorkshire cricket, claiming direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race.

Rafiq, who played for Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, is also claiming victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club.

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The 29-year-old, once the youngest captain in the county's history, initially spoke out in August about the racist abuse and has now taken legal action.

"Those who have, like me, been on the receiving end of racism and discrimination will understand how hard it is to open up about the pain and suffering it causes," Rafiq said.

"I feel a sense of relief to finally speak about it and that my healing process can now begin.

"I hope this claim will give me the closure I need and that the recommendations from the tribunal will help bring about change for our future generations in cricket."

The law firm representing Rafiq, Chadwick Lawrence, said the claim, which has gone to the Leeds Employment Tribunal, sets out the "expressly racist dressing room banter" Rafiq and other non-white players experienced.

Azeem Rafiq can be seen bowling for Yorkshire during his stint with the English county.
Azeem Rafiq says he was the victim of sustained racism at Yorkshire. Pic: Getty

This included the use of terms such as "P**i", "elephant washer", and telling such players to "go back where you came from", the firm said.

It is claimed Yorkshire failed to respect the beliefs of Pakistani players or players of Pakistani ethnicity, including the non-provision of Halal food facilities.

Rafiq's legal claim states that there were attempts to enforce a drinking culture on those players.

The claim references an occasion where players and officials laughed at alcohol being thrown over a Muslim child and on-field racist abuse directed towards a black South African player.

Rafiq was also allegedly referred to as 'Raffa the Kaffir', while it is said he was denied opportunities afforded to white players, including the chance to play Twenty20 cricket in the winter.

Rafiq said Yorkshire ignored his complaints of racism and victimisation throughout 2018 and the severe mental health issues he suffered as a result of his treatment by the club included depression and contemplating suicide.

with AFP

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