Ex-test cricketer causes racism stir with speech

JIM MORTON
Last updated 20:59 11/11/2012

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Former Australian test batsman Greg Ritchie has caused a racism drama with a Gabba lunch speech that's earned the wrath of old teammate Kepler Wessels and Cricket Australia.

Ritchie has been accused of making "unacceptable" comments by using the derogatory term "kaffir" in an anecdote involving former South African Wessels when they played together for Queensland against the menacing West Indies in 1980.

"Hey Kepler, you're not going to call this lot kaffirs today are you?" he related as a guest speaker at the Gabba Members test lunch on Friday.

Wessels reacted quickly when informed of the comments, telling South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper it was despicable and he was seriously considering legal action.

Ritchie, who has previously been in hot water for comedy sketches portraying an Indian called "Mahatma Cote", also made offensive remarks in jokes about Islam and Pakistan in his address.

Cricket Australia admonished Ritchie on Sunday and indicated he wouldn't be welcome as a guest speaker at any cricket venue for the rest of the summer.

"We are obviously very disappointed in the comments made at the luncheon," a CA spokesman said.

"A senior official from Cricket Australia contacted Greg who has confirmed the content of the speech.

"We've made it clear that the comments are absolutely unacceptable.

"There's absolutely no place for racism in sport either on the field or off the field."

The spokesman said Queensland Cricket and other states had been reminded to advise speakers of the International Cricket Council's anti-racism code.

Ritchie, who also was a guest speaker at Queensland Cricket's pre-Test lunch, admitted he used the forbidden k-word but it was in no way meant to offend anyone racially or make Wessels look like he used the word himself.

"I'm very, very sad that that a person would have taken it in that way," he told AAP, adding he would call Wessels to explain himself.

"I didn't say that Kepler said the word. I say to Kepler 'hey Kepler I bet no-one would ever use that word to these blokes'.

"To show the fear we had of the West Indies. It's in that context and it's emphasising the fact it's a shocking thing to say."

But he stood by highly questionable jokes that he made against Muslims and Pakistan, believing some people were too precious.

"If I want to have a little joke ... if they get offended then well then get a life," he said.

"I get upset when they do riots and protests in the streets and so do all of us."

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- AAP

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