Originally published 7/7/18.
Republished 9/7/18 with edits and names withdrawn
It’s the complicit silence from his peers that is ultimately bothering me.
Maybe not the lack of condemnation, but definitely the lack of commitment to providing a safe place of work.
We are witnessing the hypocrisy of the cricket journalistic clique charging at social issues like a hungry lion chasing its prey, yet when it happens within the establishment, little is said.
This week, one brave young cricket journalist publicly spoke out against sexual harassment in the workplace. On the back of that, others have come forward to express similar experiences. All stemming from the same man.
A man that is clearly well known, senior in the industry and well networked.
His modus operandi in almost all cases was the same.
A young female cricket writer receives praise from him on email about her latest piece. This praise holds weight given this man’s status in the industry. Over time, trust is created. Then via email, he introduces the victim to Mahreen Hasan. Another writer who wants to do research. Mahreen reaches out and starts to ask the victim about their sexuality. You can work out the rest yourself.
The problem is that Mahreen is fictional. A pseudonym. An outlet for this man to groom these women for his own ugly purposes.
I don’t apologise for documenting any of the above. It is necessary. The world will take care of this creep as it sees fit. However, the bigger issue is how the cricket media have responded to the news.
It’s not as though they don’t know about it. They all do. One even came out on Twitter to ensure that his followers didn’t think it was him.
This is where my disappointment begins.
I take you back to Chris Gayle and the “Don’t Blush Baby” incident. I went to google and entered “Don’t Bush Baby Articles” in its search function. Over 4 million results turned up. And I can tell you that almost without fail, every cricket journalist on the beat at that time published an opinion on the matter.
Known womaniser with a camera in his face publicly tries to flirt with a reporter. It didn’t go down to well with many.
Unfortunately, we now have a situation where those same opinion writers can turn their attention to a closer issue. Sexual Harassment in their own house.
They can speak up against it. They can ensure that they help maintain the trust that their profession holds. They can help young female cricket journalists, who may have been scarred by this episode, feel safe and welcomed and that the institution will not stand for this type of behaviour.
But to date, the majority have not.
Sambit Bal, the editor of Cricinfo has responded on Twitter with:
“Creepiness and depravity exists everywhere but it is far more disgusting and depressing coming from journalists who are supposed to be avengers for truth and justice…..”
ABC journalist Geoff Lemon tweeted:
“Wanted to state my support for …… women speaking out about a senior cricket journalist repeatedly harassing his colleagues. They haven’t identified him but are considering next steps.”
Apologies if I’ve missed someone, but apart from these, and the one journalist who was more concerned with telling the world it wasn’t him, rather than speaking out against the behaviour or reassuring women that the press box is a safe place, I’m yet to find any public condemnation anywhere from the inner sanctum.
[Update 9/7/18: Since publishing this article on 7/7/18, a great many journalists have pledged support for the victim. However, we are still yet to hear much publicly about any commitments to make the workplace safer]
Is this lack of reaction from the cricket journalistic bubble an insight into a wider cultural problem?
Firstly, at least two women who I’ve spoken to directly claim that this man had colleagues who knew about this behaviour but did nothing.
Now, it is true that speaking out against this stuff can be difficult. I’d shudder to imagine how I’d react if this happened in my workplace. The immediate sense of burying your head in the sand and hoping someone else will deal with it is all too real. But grooming women who you work with in this engineered manner doesn’t tick any box on the correct side of the right and wrong ledger.
But Cricinfo now know. I’m aware that the BCCI have received official complaints about his behaviour. How will they respond?
[Update 9/7/18: Since publishing this article on 7/7/18, I’ve become aware that this man’s accreditations are in the process of being revoked. But when he ultimately changes careers the challenge is how do others know of his past. He could do this again in another industry.]
Unfortunately, this is not the only time in recent years that the cricket journalistic set has had an issue. Only a few years ago during the Boxing Day Test, it was reported that member of the press box spent two days surfing porn in plain sight. Yet no one said anything. It was too uncomfortable to do so.
Proving that the phenomenon is global, read this extract from Wisden from Tanya Aldred. Basically it tells the story of Cricket Australia re-accrediting a journalist who assaulted a female colleague in the previous season. How did Cricket Australia deal with it? It placed them in two separate press boxes.
But the one that strikes me as the most telling is the Peter Roebuck worship. A talented writer for sure, but a groomer of young underprivileged males whom he piled with money, schooling and an opportunity to remove themselves from an inferior life in return for sexual affection.
You can read all about it here.
Many in the press corp still look up to Roebuck as a mentor, conveniently ignoring the fact that he ruined multiple lives through what was a form of economic blackmail.
So what should we be expecting from the journalists who know and work with this man?
I would have thought that a public commitment to ensuring they are doing their bit to keep the press box safe would suffice as a minimum. I’m not suggesting that they go on a witch hunt, but they do have an obligation to create and maintain a safe workplace for everyone.
Silence is not an option and yet silence is all that we currently have in regards to systems, processes and culture.
We are all aware of the mighty roar that these guys can create of issues like these. Yet all we can hear at the moment is the sound of one hand clapping.
Now I’m no saint. And passing moral judgement is a wobbly soap box to stand on.
But it is time for the cricket clique to look itself in the mirror.
It went after Gayle. It goes after Trump and Piers and gay marriage and pushes the cause of women’s cricket and multiple other social issues. It once even went after Henry Blofeld for being born into white privilege.
Well guys, now is the time to support your young female colleagues. Your industry is not immune to #MeToo.
Tell the world that your workplace is a safe workplace for them.
Because if you don’t, right here right now, then your hypocrisy speaks volumes.Follow @denniscricket_