Australia v India Test series 2017: Does cricket really need to continue using the term 'chinaman'?
Published: March 27, 2017 - 2:08PM
PC f***wit, idiot, f***ing idiot, ponce, attention-seeker, snowflake, cancer, pretend victim.
Now that the name-calling's out of the way, let's have an adult discussion.
Cricket has a problem. Not a major problem, perhaps even what social media types like to call a first-world problem. But a problem nevertheless.
Cricket has many quirky and whimsical terms, the origins of which even many tragics of the game would struggle to explain. Fielding positions like silly mid-off, third man, fine leg and cow corner (in an unofficial capacity) are but a few.
They are part of the rich fabric of the sport, and may they live on for as long as cricket is played. With the exception of one - the "chinaman".
It's not a term that is commonly heard in cricket, but one that will get a lot of air play this week after spinner Kuldeep Yadav's dream start to his Test career for India.
Why? Because he is what is known in the game as a "chinaman" bowler - a left-arm spinner who turns the ball back into the right-handed batsman.
Uncomfortable at how often and insensitively the term was being used after Kuldeep's efforts, this correspondent challenged cricket to get rid of the racially offensive term. It met a mixed response on Twitter, which fell broadly into three categories:
- support from those who can see its racist overtones;
- curiosity from those wanting to learn;
- and streams of abuse from those outraged that I was upset by something they deemed innocuous.
It wasn't long before the accusations of double standards - due to my failure to condemn other cricket terms like short leg (it supposedly upsets amputees), flipper (dolphins), swinger (monogamous married men) and yorker (apparently Yorkshire is up in arms about it) - began to arrive.
I'll put my hand up and say I have used the term "going Irish" to denote reverse swing, but no longer do after receiving a complaint a few years back. And I'll happily say Je suis desole if there is justifiable cause to shelve the "French cut".
Others told me to concentrate my energy towards worthier causes like ending world poverty and stopping ISIS, though I am humble enough to accept I do not have the expertise to solve those issues.
There were also calls for Chinaman to be seen as a term of endearment due to the difficulty of the delivery, except its origin in cricket came not out of respect but disbelief that an Englishman could lose his wicket to a Chinese.
The term joined the cricket vernacular after a Test between England and West Indies at Old Trafford in 1933, when Ellis "Puss" Achong, a left-arm finger-spinner (orthodox) and the first Test cricketer of Chinese ancestry, dismissed English batsman Walter Robins with wrist-spin.
According to legend, as Robins walked back to the pavilion, he said ,"Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman". It has stuck ever since.
The term Chinaman has historically been used in a contemptuous manner to describe the Chinese, whereas its equivalents - Englishman, Frenchman, Dutchman - have not. Hands up those who would dare call their Chinese colleague a "ching chong Chinaman"?
Similarly, it's why an Australian can be called an Aussie, but a Pakistani cannot be referred to as a "Paki" or an Aboriginal as an ... I think you catch the drift.
It's worth noting there are some of Chinese descent who do not find it objectionable. Fine, but that does not mean others should not, either.
The term is not used in a disparaging manner in the context of cricket, but that alone is not justification for its continued use. It's just as well Robins did not bemoan being dismissed by a "chink".
A simple solution would be for the craft to be known as left-arm wrist-spin, in recognition of it being bowled with the left arm and the wrists being used to generate the spin.
Or how about re-naming the delivery the Achong, in honour, rather than dishonour, of the bowler who has not been given due credit in cricket folklore?
Now to find a path to world peace.
Andrew Wu is a cricket writer for Fairfax Media. He was born in Australia and is proud of his Chinese heritage