‘Grovel’: The racist slur that changed Windies in 1976
Written by Sandip G
| New Delhi |

Updated: June 10, 2020 12:23:33 am


Vivian Richards plundered 829 runs in seven innings in that collection in opposition to England. (Source: Reuters)

It was June 1, 1976, the day earlier than the West Indies had been to play the primary of their 5 Tests at Trent Bridge. The workforce was stress-free in the lounge of the workforce lodge. The tv was on, however no one paid consideration. Someone was about to change it off when Greig’s face flashed on the display, with a scroll on the backside that blared, ‘Breaking News’. Suddenly, everybody paused.

Years later, Viv Richards recollects the day vividly. “We were just about to go into our team meeting to discuss our strategies, and then all of a sudden it was, ‘Breaking News’. Because they said there’s something that’s going to be said by Tony Greig, so everyone was basically on their seats, waiting to hear what was said, and there, up on the TV, was Tony Greig.”

The phrases he uttered had been to alter the historical past of the Caribbean and world cricket.

Richards tries his greatest to parody Greig’s South African accent and the facial contortions as he says: “We’re going to make, with the help of (Brian) Closey and a few of my mates, we’re going to make the Windies grovel. You know? Wow!”

Richards says he didn’t perceive the phrase ‘grovel’ nor its racial undertones. He grabbed a dictionary. There was no entry. But trying on the faces of his senior teammates, he knew it was one thing severe.

“You could see the look on everyone’s faces… Guys felt very belittled at the time, they felt what was said wasn’t about the sport itself, it was more personal than anything else. We felt it (the word) was derogatory especially since Greig came from South Africa, a country under apartheid. My brothers and sisters and anyone of a darker colour weren’t in the big picture. And to use such words, let them grovel, especially coming with a South African accent (was hurting),” he says.

They muted the tv and went to the workforce assembly. No one uttered a phrase. “And I’ll tell you, that was the team meeting. So I think someone said to the skipper at the time, Clive, ‘Are we gonna have the meeting?’ He said, ‘No, the meeting’s over’.”

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It stoked their political consciousness, particularly that of Richards. He wore a wristband in the colors of the Rastafari motion. “Green for the land of Africa. Gold for the wealth that was stripped away. Red for the blood that was shed,” Richards defined in the documentary ‘Fire in Babylon’. He was a good friend of Bob Marley and the Wailers and used their protest music ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ as his private anthem.

From Greig’s verbal taunt arose a chilly, laborious fury. Like each one among his teammates, Richards took it personally, savaging the English bowlers, plundering 829 runs in seven innings, with two double a whole lot together with his highest of 291, forewarning bowlers all over the world of the brutality he was to topic them in years to return.

Everyone had a private rating to settle with Greig. “The guys responded to it. Every time Tony Greig came in to bat, he got a delivery that was just full of length and knocked his pole over,” Richards remembers.

Greig was neither forgiven nor forgotten, although Richards can perceive him now. “I assume it was reasonably unlucky, at that time. He was attempting to possibly gee up an England workforce, who on the time lacked shallowness. He was attempting to possibly increase a lifeless horse, you realize,” he says.

Tony Greig, the previous England captain’s, verbal indiscretion galvanised Caribbean delight in the tip. (Source: AP Photo)

Greig was insensitive or blind to the background of that West Indies workforce. The Caribbean area was starting to seek out its groove and ft. The main international locations had received independence in the 1960s, and a brand new sense of black delight was pervading the islands. Cricket-wise, they had been fed up of being labelled ‘calypso cricketers’, a patronising, subtly racist shorthand that alluded to a bunch of entertainers, enjoying with submissive smiles on their faces. They would flip up, carry out some dazzling particular person stunts, and thrill the group earlier than going away defeated.

In England, the Caribbean neighborhood was now ready for a politicised “us vs them” cricket showdown. They thronged the stadiums like by no means earlier than, and at any time when the West Indies batsmen hit a 4, they might yell ‘grovel, grovel’ at Greig!

Ezeke, a British-based Jamaican musician, launched a report known as “Who’s Grovelling Now?” The music rapidly turned the unofficial soundtrack for the collection.

In the ultimate Test on the Oval, Greig reacted to taunts from West Indian supporters by “grovelling”. He crawled throughout the parched Oval outfield in mock humiliation and smiled to the group. Tony Cozier, commentating for BBC radio, described Greig’s act as a “good little touch” which was appreciated by the West Indian spectators.

So Greig’s verbal indiscretion galvanised Caribbean delight. And at any time when they had been on the sphere, just one phrase rung in their ears. “Grovel.” “And I did grovel, when Tony got me out finally on 291. Tony behaved like he had got me out for nought? I was gutted not because I missed a triple, but I got out to him, finally.”

Richards ends the dialog with a deeply philosophical thought: “Words sometimes get used in a way where you may have to come and say ‘I’m sorry’. I just wanted to send a message we are all equal.”

Greig is not any extra, Richards is nudging 70. The world has moved on however as the Sammy Insta-story shows, racism hasn’t.

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READ | ‘Racism is in cricket too, not only football’: Chris Gayle

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