Racism Or Alcohol-Fuelled Hate At Edgbaston?

The Eric Hollies 22 stand at the Edgbaston Cricket Stadium was buzzing with chants, dhol, saxophone, singing and dancing on the first three days of the India vs England Test match. There was a mood of celebration, a melting pot of cultures. Cricket continued in festive spirit on Day 4 too as India dominated proceedings and set England 378 runs to win the Test match. It was a tall task, a record chase that few believed at that time could be achieved.

But the English Team had their noses to the grindstone. They brought up a risk-free century opening partnership.

The mood began to change at the Eric Hollies 22 stand. Tweets from Indian fans gave an insight into what happened in the next few hours.

There were constant racist chants and abuses aimed at the fans of Indian origin. Exchanges got heated between Lunch and Tea and the stewards, who were asked to act, remained inert. Instead, they directed fans to sit in their designated seats.

Rishee Chhabra, a part of the Bharat Army, who had friends in the middle of the drama between two sets of fans told NDTV, “It was not just the Bharat Army fans, but the others were abused too. Stewards were told what was happening, pointed out the culprits, no action was taken. Fans had to go through a lot of emotional stress.”

There were over 1,50,000 fans watching cricket over 5 days- one incident marred the experience. Even Ben Stokes, the England Test captain did not hide his disappointment.

But what was the trigger? Rishee tells NDTV.

“Eric Hollies stand 22 was buzzing for better part of the match because the Indians were on top. And then all of a sudden, India from a winning situation went onto a very bad situation. That excited the English fans and with the alcohol they had, may have lost control.”

Adam Taylor, a part of the Barmy Army, who has for long been involved in bridging groups of fans says, “We have to protect that cricket fans mix and mingle together. When the game started changing, a bit more animosity crept in, alcohol fuelled it. It is up to the authorities to protect the family areas. For most part it was celebratory. If the authorities think it is going out of control, they can shut the bar. Police should use CCTV cameras and evict these elements.”

Adam says that cricket needs a lesson from football, that has been dealing matters of violence and racism for long.

“Football is more mature in getting on top of these problems. We can probably learn from football about identifying and removing supporters who cross the line and make sure that they do not take part in our sport again,” he said.

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The Warwickshire Cricket Club has promised to act. As a first step, they will deploy undercover spotters to track racial abuse during the 2nd T20I between England and India at Edgbaston on Saturday night.

Stopping alcohol-fuelled hate will be the key to restoring health of the sport and faith of one of the key stake holders – the fans. For faith to be restored in Warwick County Cricket Club, fans want an impartial investigation into the events of 4th July and the culprits punished. Even though investigations are on, the timeline for deliverance of justice remains unclear.

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