The strategy of most people when they hear a racist or xenophobic comment is to be silent and hope that it will go away. The problem is, that strategy just tends to embolden the racists.
So it has proved with Tony Greig.
His constant derogatory remarks about Indians or “the Indians”, as he refers to them, are not only offensive, they are part of a pattern of blatant racism and xenophobia that Greig has shown through his playing and commentating career.
One of the most remarkable instances of sport being used for political ends involved Greig’s racism. Greig, a white South African who played for England due to South Africa being banned for its apartheid policies, said before England’s series against the West Indies in 1977: “The West Indians, these guys, if they get on top they’re magnificent cricketers. If they’re down, they grovel. And I intend, with the help of Closey [English batsmen Brian Close], to make them grovel.”
These comments were deeply racist and infuriated West Indian batsman Viv Richards. It was now not just a cricket match, it took on much greater significance.
Richards said: "Who wouldn’t want to maybe have one-up on your colonial masters at some point? ... I just wanted to send that message we are all equal. It’s pretty simple."
West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding said the comment ”smacked of racism and apartheid.”
Richards scored a ”double-hundred in the first Test, missing the second, a century in the third and another double-hundred in the fifth”.
Responding to Greig, Richards stated, “Yes I was groveling at 291 when Tony Greig got me out.”
Holding said: “It was a great feeling to see Greig depart for the last time with stumps scattered all over the place.”
West Indian captain Clive Lloyd said about the series: ”It was a very, very important moment for our cricket and the well-being of the West Indian people in England.”
Soon after, Greig became Kerry Packer’s right hand man, as he poached players to start-up World Series Cricket. His role in this set him up to be employed by Channel Nine for life.
Pakistani fans remember Greig using the word “Paki” to refer to Pakistani players when he first started commentating.
Greig’s racism also came out in 1999, as the SMH reported: “Greig uttered, 'Do you think she has been flown in' -- a mail-order bride reference -- when cameras panned to a wedding reception behind North Sydney Oval that involved a caucasian man and Asian woman.”
The woman who Greig implied was a mail order bride, Marlene Cases said: “What is disturbing is that there are people out there who refer to Asian women as mail-order-brides if their partners are Australian. A lot of Asian women are here in Australia because of skills not because they got married to an Australian.”
Cases had been living in Australia for nine years before she got married. She demanded a public apology from Greig. She never got one. She only got a phone call from someone speaking on behalf of Greig.
While commentating in 2008, Greig said: “These Pakistanis don’t know how to do anything other than argue. They never stop arguing. They are always right. And I have got to say I’ve almost had enough of it.”
When players from Pakistan or India meet to discuss something, he tends to refer to it as "jabbering". As a fan pointed out, when white players talk they "confer", while Asians "jabber". He also has a tendency to refer to Asian players as “little” regardless of their actual size.
Later that year, the following exchange was reported:
Commentator: "I was interested talking to you this morning, Tony, … JP Duminy, the fact that he’s a Cape coloured … and your comment about the fact that the Cape coloureds in general are very relaxed, nothing much worries them?"
Tony Greig: "That’s right. Fantastic temperaments, very jovial people. We’ve all been down to Trinidad and seen the way they have that wonderful carnival down there. similar things happen in the Cape. They love their music. Very, very humourous people. Take the Mickey out of each other in really jovial fashion. So yeah, I think that all lends itself to being relatively relaxed and not taking yourself too seriously."
The blogger who reported this said: “Jeesh, Tony. When you left South Africa they still had something called apartheid. These days we don’t do racist generalisations, mate.”
This is all part of a constant pattern. Now, it seems, it is “the Indians” turn. When Greig is commentating with Mark Taylor, who is part of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) rules committee, Grieg always goads Taylor with complaints about recent changes but he always ends up forgiving Taylor, because “the Indians” stop anything from happening. Whatever is wrong with the game is because of the Indians.
Later on, he said if a player was given out and then that was overturned in India, the game wouldn’t be able to start again. Those restless natives, you see, would only riot.
Greig believes Indians dominate the running of the game. Greig told the BBC “Number one, we have got to try and get the ICC right. We have a situation at the moment where the ICC is dominated by India. They tell Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and one or two other countries what to do and they always get the vote.”
Former South African captain Ali Bacher made the appropirate response when he said: “Tony Greig has a short memory. No one needs telling that England and Australia have controlled world cricket. I remember at ICC meetings, members from the subcontinent were good listeners. The key decisions were always taken by Australia and England, while the rest remained passive participants… India is not a force in world cricket without a reason. The money is in abundance, they have the biggest cricket market and the hub of world cricket, everyone admits, is India. I cannot figure out why India should not have a key role (in international cricket affairs).”
Greig, for instance, wouldn’t like people to remember that until 1993, Australia and England had the power of veto at the ICC.
This is the obvious point. Greig isn’t worried about corporate control over the game, one only needs to look at Channel Nine commentary to see how much he enjoys being a corporate shill. It is the wrong type of corporations or wrong type of money that is controlling the game in his mind, i.e ones that aren’t benefiting him.
The Indian Cricket Board, after all, smashed and destroyed one of his money-making ventures, the Indian Cricket League (ICL).
It is no wonder, then, that Greig supported another notorious racist in heading up world cricket when he said, “I thought John Howard was the appropriate candidate for the ICC job.”
Howard, no doubt, would have ensured that cricket’s money went to the "right" people. Nor is it any wonder that he put Howard not getting the job down to him being a politician.
Now, instead of the ICL, it seems that Greig will have to suffice from the blood money of the genocidal state of Sri Lanka, whom he was appointed tourism ambassador of in March.
Greig can come off as jovial, but in reality he is a bitter, greedy, racist and sexist (the way he describes women who pop up on his screen is abhorrent) man who shouldn’t be allowed on television screens, anywhere.
Knowing Channel Nine, however and their commitment to the above values, his "job for life" seems disturbingly appropriate.
[Tim Dobson maintain's the sport's blog Press Box Red, where this article first appeared.
Clip from 2010 documentary about West Indian cricket, Fire in Babylon about Tony Greig's infamous "grovel" comment — and the aftermath.