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    Lord Botham gets a barrage of cheap shots at DCMS hearing shameful case

    Botham commented on ICEC on the podcast. Photo: Getty Images/Daniel Pockett

    “Is this the old dinosaur's last breath?” Those were the words spoken by John Nicholson of the Scottish National Party when he heard that Lord Botham, not content with calling last year's report on discrimination in English cricket “nonsense”, said he had thrown the document on the floor. It seemed that whether you agreed with Botham or not, it was a cheeky label to attach to one of England's all-time greatest players. It also begs the question of why the 68-year-old, who is happier these days developing his extensive collection of southern hemisphere wines, was drawn into the debate at all.

    Botham, for his part, says he was never asked to speak about his own experiences as part of the Independent Cricket Equality Commission's investigation. This is rejected by Cindy Butts, the commission's chairwoman, who insists he was invited to testify. Their conflicting recollections escalated at the select committee hearing into a near-killing of Botham, with Nicholson calling the country's top all-rounder hopelessly out of touch and Butts criticizing the England and Wales Cricket Board for lacking the “moral basis” to call him out. so it is.

    A more impressive display of greatness would be hard to find. While Nicholson praised Butts for her “powerful testimony”, he did not challenge her highly selective quoting of Botham's statements. In the same podcast where he criticized ICEC's “nonsense”, Botham also spoke about sharing his dressing room in Somerset with Sunil Gavaskar, Hallam Moseley, Joel Garner and Viv Richards, saying: “I'm standing here now and telling you: “Find someone to say I'm racist.” He's gone. He mentioned that Nelson Mandela patted him on the shoulder and said, “You are my hero,” for the role he played in England's boycott of apartheid in South Africa.

    Sir Viv Richards and Botham played together for Somerset. Photo: Getty Images/Gareth Copley

    So this is the man the Ochil and South Perthshire MP calls “the old dinosaur”. Now is a good time to examine what entitles Nicholson, the Scottish National Party's spokesman for culture, media and sport since 2020, to issue such rebuttals to Botham's views. Not much in his recent political career, that's for sure. In March last year, Nicholson sparked controversy by saying politicians wearing their own makeup for television appearances looked “too tanned” and “tandooried.” He later apologized for using racially insensitive language.

    Against this backdrop, one might think he might tone down the moralizing about Botham and cricket. Instead, Nicholson donned the mantle of parliamentary privilege to criticize a sporting icon who wasn't even in the room to defend himself. When Butts solemnly informed him of the ECB's argument that Botham was entitled to his opinion “in a democracy”, he proceeded to give an inappropriate little lecture on hereditary privilege and the House of Lords, with the cricketer becoming a life peer four years ago. .

    If this is the level of a politician seeking to cast doubt on Botham's reputation, you can't help but wonder if there are other motives at play here. Was Nicholson's intervention based on a deep understanding of the inner workings of English cricket? Or was it simply a case of him amplifying Butts' message because it suited his own worldview?

    The thing about many discussions on this topic is that they take place in an echo chamber. Even figures like Nicholson, who should have known better, instinctively gravitate towards those who reinforce their prejudices. Thus, Butts acts as the voice of reason, and Botham as the antediluvian agitator. But can the equation really be that binary?

    While Botham might have been more thoughtful than to say that he threw the ICEC results on the floor, his reaction came from pure irritation, from the feeling that everything The game has been tarnished with the same brush. This is clearly a problem with the report: the fact that so much of the testimony is anonymous, and that locker rooms are portrayed as places of rancid prejudice. If English cricket is ever to emerge from its long night of soul over racism, then surely a more nuanced conversation than this is needed. And a good place to start is by resisting the portrayal of Lord Botham as a dinosaur.

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