After Boris Johnson waded into the row over Ollie Robinson's racist and sexist tweets, former India wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer expressed disbelief, saying "it is absolute rubbish for a prime minister to lend his name" to such a controversy. (More Cricket News)
Robinson, who made a rousing debut for England in the drawn first Test against England, was suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) soon after the match at Lord's following the discovery of his tweets.
But British PM, while lending support to the culture secretary's view that the ECB has gone "over the top" in its punishment of Robinson, criticised the cricket board. Johnson's official spokesperson said Monday: "The Prime Minister is supportive of the comments from Oliver Dowden that he made via tweet this morning.
"As Oliver Dowden set out, these were comments made more than a decade ago (sic) written by someone as a teenager, for which they've rightly apologised."
It left Engineer, a Lancashire legend, dismayed.
"I am reading in the papers about Boris Johnson. I think it is absolute rubbish for a prime minister to lend his name to such a statement. Punish the fellow (Robinson). I think the ECB has done absolutely the right thing by suspending him. He has committed an error of judgement, he should pay for it. It will be a deterrent,” The Indian Express reported Engineer as saying.
Engineer also dismissed the argument that Robinson should be forgiven as the social media posts were "written by someone as a teenager, for which they've rightly apologised."
"It is a real shame when you say he was a youngster who was 18 (when he tweeted). It is an age at which an individual is responsible. If they (cricketers) can get away with it, then things would be worse. People will make all sorts of comments against us (Asians). It has to be nipped in the bud. To talk about Asians like that in such a context or make other comments reflects on the upbringing," Engineer, who played 46 Tests for India, said.
Engineer himself faced racism during his county stint in England. While narrating his ordeal, the 83-year-old said that his "English is better than most Englishmen" but still faced racism because he's from India.
"When I first came into county cricket, there were question marks like 'he is from India?' I did face it (racist comments) once or twice when I joined Lancashire. Nothing very personal, but just because I was from India. It had to do with making fun of my accent. I think my English is better than most Englishmen really, so soon they realised that you don’t mess around with Farokh Engineer. They got the message. I gave it back to them straightaway. Not only that, I proved myself with my bat and gloves as well. I was simply proud I put India on the map as an ambassador for the country."
Engineer played 175 games for Lancashire from 1968 to 1976.
He had earlier said that Indian cricketers often faced racism in international cricket. Giving an example, Engineer revealed that former England opener Geoffrey Boycott would often say ‘bloody Indians’.
"Boycott’s comment… well it was a common thing. I don’t want to make an issue about only Boycott. The others, even if they didn’t say it, they thought of it. He was not the only one, there were a few others, including Australians as well," Engineer told comedian Cyrus Broacha during a recent podcast.
But the Indians have turned the table on British, mainly thanks to the Indian Premier League.
"We were all 'bloody Indians' to them till a few years ago. Now once the IPL started, they are all licking our backsides. It amazes me that just because of the money, they are licking our boots now. But people like me know what their true colours were initially. Now they suddenly changed their tunes. India is a good country to go for a few months and do some television work, if not play and make money," he added.
Meanwhile, England's white-ball skipper Eoin Morgan and wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler found themselves in trouble after their alleged racist tweets, mocking Indians, surfaced on social media. They are under investigation by the ECB, which has promised "relevant and appropriate action", saying each case will be considered on an individual basis.
The posts, in which Buttler and Morgan used the word 'sir' to mock the Indians, started doing the rounds on social media after the suspension of Robinson.
"Screenshots have also been shared of a message by Buttler in which he says 'I always reply sir no1 else like me like you like me' and, separately, Morgan includes Buttler in a message which says, 'Sir you're my favourite batsman'," according to a report in the Telegraph.co.uk.
Buttler and Morgan both feature in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with the former playing for the Rajasthan Royals and the latter leading the Kolkata Knight Riders.
"Although there are questions over the precise context of the tweets, they were written at a time when Buttler and Morgan were established England players and have caused offence on social media," the report added.