Seasoned off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Sunday said racist abuse from the crowd at the Sydney Cricket Ground is not new and needs to be dealt with an iron fist after some spectators were asked to leave for targetting Indian players during the ongoing third Test against Australia.
Speaking at the end of the fourth day's play, Ashwin said the Indian players have faced racism in Sydney earlier too and "disappointment" will be a "mild word" to describe how they are feeling after young pacer Mohammed Siraj was subjected to racial slurs on two consecutive days.
"Look, I would like to point out something. This is my fourth tour to Australia. Sydney, especially here, we have had a few experiences even in the past," Ashwin said at the virtual press conference to a query from PTI as to how the team is looking at the unsavoury incident.
In fact, without naming skipper Virat Kohli, Ashwin also referred to an incident where he was photographed showing his middle finger to the crowd during the of 2011 after being constantly abused by a section of the crowd.
"One or two times, even the players have reacted and have got into trouble in the past and not because of players but actually the way the crowd has been speaking, especially the lower tier of the stands."
Local media reported that six people were expelled from the ground by the security during the nearly 10-minute halt in the on-ground proceedings during the fourth day of the ongoing Test. On Saturday, the BCCI lodged a complaint with the ICC after Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah were abused.
"They have been quite nasty and have been hurling abuses as well. But this is the time when they have gone one step ahead and used racial abuses," the senior member of the team said.
Ashwin said that both umpires Paul Reiffel and Paul Wilson have told them to report any incident of racism immediately.
"Like we already mentioned, we have lodged an official complaint yesterday and umpires also mentioned we must bring it to their notice as and when it happens.
"It is not acceptable in this day and age when we have seen a lot," said Ashwin.
He said in no unequivocal terms that this needs to be dealt with an iron fist.
"This roots back to upbringing and the way one sees, this needs to be definitely dealt with iron fists. We must make sure it doesn't happen again."
Ashwin said that the team didn't face any racism in the earlier Test venues like Adelaide and Melbourne.
"Personally, I think Adelaide and Melbourne weren't as bad but like I said this has been a continuous thing at Sydney. I personally experienced it as well. They do tend to get nasty. I don't know why or for what reason."
Ashwin was surprised that the security personnel didn't round up the perpetrators at the first instance and let it linger for a long time.
"Unless people don't find the necessity to look at it in a different way, in fact I was surprised that a section in crowd continuously did and they were not made to surround or pulled up for it.
"They needed to be dealt with and yes, disappointing is actually a very mild word, I must say," he said
Ashwin then went on to narrate some of his own experiences on previous tours.
"If I take myself back to the first tour of 2011-12, I had no clue about racial abuse and how you were made to feel small in front of so many people and people actually laugh at you and another set of people who laugh along when these things happen. I had no idea at all what this was," he said.
"When you stood at the boundary line, you wanted to come in 10 yards inside to avoid all these things. As things have moved on and we have toured more and more, this has definitely been not acceptable," he said.
"So when Siraj brought it up, Ajinkya, Rohit and myself, we all got together and reported the matter to the umpires. A new boy like Siraj knows, this is a line someone cannot over-step. We were quite happy that these people were evicted," the eloquent Chennai man said.
Pitch is good to bat on and two gentlemen out there have proved how good they are: Ashwin
Ashwin reckons that the 22-yard strip at the SCG has eased considerably and backed two of India's finest exponents of Test match batting -- Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara -- to once again come good in a pressure situation.
India will need to bat 90 plus overs on the final day of the third Test and score another 309 runs with Pujara and Rahane aiming to save the match by batting out the whole day.
"The pitch has been quite slow, and it has been good to bat on. In fact, the balls that we saw misbehave yesterday, the ones that went up and down, has also kind of come down because of the slow nature of the pitch," Ashwin said after the fourth day's play.
The pitch has now been baked in sunshine which wasn't the case on the first day.
"I also think the roller is playing a role. And because the game started off with the pitch not seeing a lot of sun, the wicket is getting better to bat as the sun is belting down on it.
"As a team, behind in the game, like we are, we are hopeful we can put a good performance in the first session tomorrow."
The first session on day five will be crucial and Ashwin has full faith in Pujara and Rahane's abilities.
"It is very very important that we play a good first session tomorrow," Ashwin said.
"A very very ideal and good first session would be to not lose a wicket. These two gentlemen out in the middle have proven through their career how good they are playing this format of the game and playing many good knocks for us.
"Ajinkya has got a hundred at MCG and Puji (Pujara's team nickname) has got a fifty in the first innings. We are all very hopeful that they will put in a good performance."
When asked if India can get 309 runs in a day, Ashwin added: "In a Test match, you don't look at the overall score on the final morning and say we must go for a win.
"It just doesn't happen quite so much like it happens in white-ball cricket. There are passages of play in the red-ball game that are much more different and you are playing on a day-five pitch.
"And also sometimes when you play to the merit of the ball, you stay in, sometimes you put yourself in a situation in the last session where you can take an initiative, but you don't go into the morning saying 'chalo hum teen sau bana denge' (let's go, score 300)."