Former India wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer has expressed his disbelief over England PM Boris Johnson’s disapproval of Ollie Robinson’s suspension over racist remarks years ago. “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,” Engineer tells The Indian Express from Manchester.
Over a decade ago Robinson had made unsavoury remarks on Twitter. In one of the tweets he had said, “My new Muslim friend is the bomb; “I wonder if Asian People put smileys like this ¦) #racist;” and “The guy next to me on the train definitely has Ebola.”
Engineer, who represented Lancashire in his time, says it’s a real shame to make such comments, and players should not be able to get away with it. “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, says.
“I am not saying ban them for life, but certainly give them a hefty fine where it hurts their wallet and suspend them from Test cricket for a series or from First-Class cricket for a while. Be strict about it.”
“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.”
But other Indians are at the receiving end too. Engineer in a recent podcast with Cyrus Broacha had discussed how Boycott was often heard saying ‘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.”
But the IPL has changed it all, and now the foreign players cosy up to the Indian players. “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.”