Having successfully destroyed the domestic competition that was once the envy of the cricket universe, Cricket Australia (CA) is now embarking on a mission to destroy the separation of church and state; Church and state that had coexisted quite seamlessly in the sport until now.
Daniel Brettig of Cricinfo writes about how Fawad Ahmed (a 31 yr old Pakistani who sought asylum in Australia and even initiated federal legislation to help play for the national team) was given the choice to not wear gear with the Victoria Bitter (VB) logo as deference to his Islamic beliefs about alcohol. Why CA would do this, I don’t know. By encouraging Fawad’s choice the CA has inadvertently put more focus on the issue and Fawad’s jersey will now be watched as closely as his performance.
Fawad now has to prove himself on the field constantly, answer questions related to his choice on the VB issue and has opened the floodgates for other Aussie cricketers to make requests based on their beliefs. Why should religion be treated differently from, say environmentalism or vegetarianism? Will the flexibility afforded to Fawad be afforded to a cricketer who abhors KFC for their caging of healthy chickens for mass slaughter? Will the flexibility afforded to Fawad be afforded to an environmentalist cricketer who did not want to advertise a gas guzzler every time he walked or ran?
Without thinking this through, CA has put itself in a very tough spot. There are no easy or graceful solutions here on. In a country turning more nativist and radical by the year (if this year’s political campaigns were any proof) CA will have to bend or break the special perk afforded to Fawad. And once they do that, they will have taken the stance that corporation > religion/individual which while being the absolute right choice in this case still leaves plenty of moral issues to deal with. Either way they risk losing 50% of the population on a choice that did not even have to be made before offering one Islamic cricketer some flexibility.
Fawad Ahmed better be a good bowler. A really good bowler. If not, he risks being the answer to the trivia question “Who caused CA to lose 50% of its fanbase by refusing to support beer?” or the slogan for the next great product from down under – FAWAD’s (Australian for not-beer).