Under-fire Australia cricketer-turned-commentator Kerry O’Keeffe on Sunday penned an open letter to Indian fans and players, apologizing for his controversial comments made during the just-concluded Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
Responding to the flak he received for his racist jokes on Indian players made on air during the course of the Boxing Day Test between India and Australia, O’Keeffe said his jokes were interpreted wrongly and he never had the intention to “disrespect” Indian cricket.
O’Keeffe said he was “devastated” by the reaction to his on-air comments that are being labelled distasteful and even racist by a section of Indian fans and the media.
“I have been devastated by the reaction to my on-air comments on Fox Cricket during the recently completed Third Test between Australia and India.
I am coming to terms with how negatively those words have been interpreted,” he wrote in his open letter.
“That interpretation is not who I am. It is not what I represent. My style as a commentator is to attempt to find a quirky view to lighten up some of the serious analysis. The veteran commentator had kicked up a storm when he said that debutant Mayank Agarwal’s Ranji Trophy triple ton may have come against “Jalandhar Railway canteen staff” and that the said opposition had bowlers who were “chefs and waiters”.
“When I made a remark about Indian first-class batting averages within their domestic cricket competition being made against a ‘canteen’ bowling attack, I was being entirely tongue in cheek,” O’Keeffe wrote in his letter. “I was certainly not disrespecting Indian cricket, where I toured as a schoolboy and for which I have the greatest admiration as a cricketing nation,” he added.
O’Keeffe also came under attack after he mocked the names of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja on air in what was a distasteful joke about the difficulty he faced in pronouncing the names of Indian players. “I pride myself on doing extensive research before a match and when I stumbled over the names of Pujara and Jadeja on Day 4, I took a swipe at myself for getting them wrong,” he wrote.
“There was no intention to ridicule those two wonderful players and I am horrified by any suggestion to the contrary. I had spent months researching and analysing these two players and when the moment arrived, I stuffed it up. The joke was on me.” O’Keeffe’s comments also didn’t go down well with India coach Ravi Shashtri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and skipper Virat Kohli.