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“If you ever get a chance to speak to Mohammed Siraj, tell him I said ‘sorry'”.
In a most unusual phone call received at the Indian Link offices this week, 91-year-old Claude Currie gave his two cents’ on the racism and sledging controversy in the ongoing AUSvIND cricket series.
The veteran cricket fan lamented the decline in sportsmanship and the ‘spirit’ of cricket in current times.
“Disgusted” over the Indian cricketers being disrespected on field, he apologised for “the rudeness of some Australian people in the audience” and said “the Australians should be ashamed of themselves”.
Claude sincerely believes that the vast majority of Australians would not subscribe to this type of behaviour.
“I’ve had a bit of experience watching the game,” he revealed.
The Sydney-based Claude recalls one distinct moment from a 1948 India-Australia match he attended at the SCG which gave rise to the now widely used cricketing term ‘mankading’.
“At that time, one of the best bowlers I reckon India’s ever had, Vinoo Mankad came up to bowl. As he got to the popping-crease, the batsman Bill Brown walked out, which naturally meant that if the bowler wanted to wipe the bails off, he could stump him. But Mankad didn’t. I remember, he just shook his left hand at the Aussie batsman to say, ‘That’s naughty, don’t do that’ and so the batsman went back. The next time the Indian bowler came up to bowl, the batsman did exactly the same thing. Once again, the bowler very sportingly shook his finger at him and pointed at the bails, after which the batsman walked back into the crease. Now, the third time the bowler came up to bowl, guess what the batsman did? He walked out again! The Indian bowler just looked at him, shook his head, whipped the bails off and the Australian batsman was out. Bill Brown was booed off the ground for being such an idiot and the Indian bowler got the best applause, I think, I’ve ever heard a bowler get,” he fondly stated.
Claude was only 19 at the time and remembers cricket being a “sporting game” while “this mob today, I reckon the Australians are a bunch of lairs,” he said.
Another incident that is etched in his memory dates back to the same era when he was captain of a team playing under the Centennial Park Cricket Association (CPCA). His team of teenagers played a match against a team of middle-aged men and won. After the game, Claude and the Head of the association went over to the captain of the opposing team to shake hands.
“He refused to shake my hand,” Claude recounted. “He just cancelled me. The head of the CPCA asked him if he was going to put a team in the competition the following year, and when he said yes, the head just said, ‘I wouldn’t if I were you, because you won’t be accepted’. ‘Come on, Claude,’ he said to me, and we walked off. He was insulted by the other captain’s behaviour.”
Claude suspects that “these types” will always be around, but that shouldn’t change the spirit of cricket which is a “gentleman’s game”, according to him.
The cricket enthusiast didn’t fail to mention that he is a third-generation Australian (his great-grandfather came from Scotland) and has accumulated a vast range of experiences over the course of his life.
“You got a big piece of paper and a pen?” Claude laughed. “I’ve done everything from being a waterslide worker, running a cosmetic company, a security company, and been a very successful professional gambler.”
“I’ve worked in so many different businesses and I’ve employed many people of different nationalities. I know that most people always get on together, there’s no animosity. Most of the blokes that I know would apologise with me today,” he added.