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Image used from Cricinfo's website under the Creative Commons license terms.

Image used from Cricinfo’s website under the Creative Commons license terms.

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).


2 Responses to “Cricket Australia’s dangerous game”

  1. thecricketcouch

    First of all, I applaud CA for being proactive and giving Fawad the choice of not wearing the VB logo if it would make him uncomfortable. I don’t see it as a problem and also don’t think this means Fawad has to be a “really good bowler” to justify that. That’s BS.

    As to whether this means whether someone might say they are not comfortable putting on KFC logo because of how chickens are treated, it could very well be and that’s a situation that will have to be handled by CA (and whichever sport authority that gets to face it). Its not a flimsy issue and a good one to have a discussion on. And if Peter Siddle being a new convert to vegetarianism is uncomfortable wearing the KFC logo, he ought to be given that choice.

    It’s not a dangerous game that CA is playing, as you seem to indicate. This is actually a right game. IN a corporatized, uniform world of sports where sport is a product and only there to be “consumed” by the viewer, I’m actually happy there is, at some corner, something like this has happened. I also am happy CSA offered Amla the choice.

    Imagine if Philip Morris sponsored CA during the days of Shane Warne. He is a smoker and say, he was happy to have it on the shirt but every other player wasn’t. Would this still be a dangerous game? (In fact, in “On Warne” Haigh mentions about first meeting Warne at a pub and how Warne offered him cigs and said, don’t worry… we get a lot of these, they are our sponsors (DunHill I believe).

  2. shyamuw

    @subash Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I suspect a lot of people are on your side on this and do think CA has done the right thing here. I see the viewpoint that this is the ethical thing to do no matter what the repercussions. I truly do. But that does not make it not dangerous –

    a) Cricket is an intelligent game and a team sport. The median cricketer is smart and understands his role in the team’s success. Treating new entrants from a different country differently can easily cause rancor and strife to team chemistry, cohesiveness and trust. Sport is rife with superstars being treated differently and teams getting away with it. Fawad Ahmed is not a superstar yet which is why I think his performance (whether it is fair or not) absolutely has some thing to do with the issue.

    b) Your Dunhill analogy is great. As opposed to smoking as the majority may have been and still is, if the board believed it was its fiduciary responsibility to have them as a sponsor I think the expectation would be to represent and wear the sponsor as part of the team while speaking out one’s individual opinion separately. The moment the board allows flexibility on one thing, where does it stop? What is the boundary line and has it already been breached?

    So while people can be thrilled about this from a tolerance viewpoint, I do not think it is the right thing to do for the stability of Australian cricket going forward. If I had to guess, I say they rescind this policy soon at least for home series.