“Well I would prefer Cheteshwar, but it is difficult to pronounce so the guys have come up with Steve. Jack Brooks started off with this. He could not pronounce my first name so he was asking me what nickname do I have. I said I don’t have any and so they said, ‘we will start calling you Steve',” Pujara had said to cricket.com.au in 2018.
The name has stuck since then, but little did the world and Pujara himself know that it was nothing but a blatant racist remark.
Pujara was given the ‘so-called nickname’ by Englishman Jack Brooks when the duo used to play county cricket together for Yorkshire. The excuse given was that they find it difficult to pronounce ‘Cheteshwar’ and hence started addressing the premier Indian batsman as ‘Steve’.
Shameful to hear Fox commentators call Pujara "Steve" even after it was allegedly kept as a racist remark at Yorkshire. Disgraceful! #AUSvIND
— Madhusudhan (@kmadhu0) December 17, 2020
It was then considered as funny by many including Pujara himself and the commentators during India’s tour to Australia in 2018 started using it widely to share a laugh.
It was not until the year 2020 when former Yorkshire player of Pakistan descent, Azeem Rafiq alleged racism in the club. The 29 year old off-spinner made some stunning revelationsin August this yearaccusing Yorkshire of ‘institutional racism’ in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident which led to a huge anti-racism social campaign called, ‘Black Lives Matter.’
Rafiq has since been pursuing legal actions against Yorkshire and has earned support from West Indies international Tino Best and Pakistan’s Rana Naved-ul Hasan who have provided evidence in support of Rafiq’s claim.
Two former Yorkshire employees – Taj Butt and Tony Bowry have also come forward and provided evidence against the existing racism in the club.
— Prashant Kondi (@PrasKon) December 17, 2020
The ‘Steve’ incident came to light around 10 days back when Butt said, “They called every person of colour ‘Steve’. Even Indian batsman CheteshwarPujara was addressed by the same name.”
Butt had reportedly resigned from the post of Community Development Officer just six months after joining Yorkshire Cricket Foundation due to the racial discrimination he faced.
Though, it was clearly evident from Butt’s statement that ‘Steve’ was just a way for many like Brooks to create a racial divide, the commentary panel of the ongoing India v/s Australia Pink ball Test match including the legendary Shane Warne were heard terming the Indian batsman ‘Steve’ and sharing a laugh.
Using the term as a joke was fine during the India tour of Australia in 2018, when the real denotation of it was not clear, but using it today – just 10 days after the startling revelation, was definitely not warranted.
At a time when the game of cricket is heading towards an equal inclusivity, such comments from legends like Shane Warne are uncalled for. Not only is it racist, but it is also largely unprofessional and disrespectful.
Laughing at something like this once may be excused, but bringing the same thing up time and again especially after Pujara himself has asserted that he doesn’t like it is a grave offence, not only to the batsman – but the entire community of brown people.
Such comments made by people of Warne’s stature doesn’t only make the efforts put in by various international cricket sides by ‘Taking a knee’, before the start of the match useless, but also sends out a message that racism is okay.
The cricketing fans from across the world have come together to slam Warne for his distasteful comments, but the question is whether is that enough? Shouldn’t the ICC be more pro-active in dealing with such comments? And more importantly, what does the soft-spoken Pujara has to say about it? Will he speak up?
Referring to Pujara as ‘Steve’ is:
Learn to say his name
— Siddhartha Vaidyanathan (@sidvee) December 17, 2020
Whatever the case be, people like Jack Brooks, Shane Warne and others need to understand that terming Cheteshwar Pujara or any other player of colour ‘Steve’ is not funny, NOT ANYMORE!