Cricket Australia apologised to the India team on Sunday and launched a probe into allegations visiting players were subjected to racial abuse by some fans in the crowd during the third Test at Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Indian team lodged an official complaint after play on Saturday after bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj complained of hearing racist slurs while fielding near the boundary rope.
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On Sunday, Siraj approached the umpire pointing towards the stands and action was paused as police ejected a small group of fans from the ground.
Cricket Australia launched a parallel investigation with New South Wales Police, promising to take the “strongest measures” against anyone found to be guilty.
“It is most regrettable that an otherwise excellent test match contested in tremendous spirit by two friendly rivals has been tarnished by the actions of a small number of spectators over the past two days,” Head of Integrity and Security Sean Carroll said in a statement.
“As hosts, we once again apologise to the Indian team.”
Venues New South Wales, which operates the stadium, said security camera footage was being reviewed to assist the investigation and any fans identified as engaging in racial abuse would be banned from the Sydney Cricket Ground and other major stadiums in Sydney.
India’s regular captain Virat Kohli was fined half of his match fee in 2012 for responding to abuse from the Sydney Cricket Ground crowd by gesturing at them with his middle finger.
Kohli, who returned home after playing in the first test to attend the birth of his first child, said racial abuse was completely unacceptable.
“Having gone through many incidents of really pathetic things said on the boundary lines, this is the absolute peak of rowdy behaviour,” Kohli said on Twitter.
“It’s sad to see this happen on the field. The incident needs to be looked at with absolute urgency and seriousness and strict action against the offenders should set things straight for once.”
Australia coach Justin Langer joined the condemnation.
“It’s upsetting and it’s disappointing,” he said. “It’s one of my greatest pet hates in life that people think they can come to a sporting event and abuse or say whatever they like. I hated it as a player and I hate it as a coach. It’s really sad to see it happen in Australia.”
India’s Ravichandran Ashwin said the team had been insulted by Sydney spectators in the past but the racial abuse had crossed a line during the continuing match, which is being played in front of a reduced crowd of less than 10,000.
“It is definitely not acceptable in this day and age. This must definitely be dealt with iron fist and we must make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the bowler said.
According to the International Cricket Council’s anti-discrimination policy, it falls on Cricket Australia to investigate the incident and submit a report to the global governing body within two weeks.
A man was banned from attending cricket matches in New Zealand for two years after being found guilty of abusing England fast bowler Jofra Archer during a 2019 tour.