Photo Credit: Professional Cricketers’ Association
With no intent to pinpoint blame following an interview on discrimination with the BBC, Anuj Dal became a victim of racist abuse, so he sought justice. Luke Reynolds finds out more about his story in issue 33 of the PCA’s membership magazine, Beyond the Boundaries which was released today.
Tuesday 8 February 2022 is a date that Anuj Dal will always remember, the day he attended Parliament to provide evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
Attending with PCA colleagues in Chair James Harris, Non-Executive Chair Julian Metherell and Chief Executive Rob Lynch, the Derbyshire all-rounder was a key figure, providing an eloquent account of the depths the game found itself in.
In his role as Vice Chair of the player-body and the representative from his county’s dressing room, the then 25-year-old presented the challenges he and his peers of ethnic minority have faced in the game through his lived experience, in a balanced manner.
Resolute on maintaining anonymity of past incidents, Dal’s maturity beyond his years led to media interest and a thought-provoking piece on the BBC in April, just two months later. The public service broadcaster provided a platform for Dal, of South Asian heritage, to acknowledge the past but at his request, to focus on a future of collaboration and equality.
Being a voice for the greater-good is clearly a passion of the former England Under 19s right-arm seamer, appointed Harris’ deputy in 2021. However, Dal’s inner-strength was tested to its core following a racist attack on his Facebook profile in response to his BBC interview.
Left stunned on the verge of the 2022 summer, he contacted the PCA to start an 18-month journey to bring the perpetrator to justice, provide closure and to educate the offender and the wider-game, there are consequences to these actions.
How did you feel when you received racist abuse?
I remember being sat in the middle of one of our player meetings when I saw the message and I was quite shaken up by that the fact somebody that I never even knew has sought me out on Facebook and sent me a direct message. I wanted to understand why they have targeted me, and I had lots of questions at that point. It was quite a scary time to be honest, I didn’t know who this person was, I didn’t know whether they were going to come and find me at the ground or seek me out or go to my home address.
What were your next steps?
Fortunately, through the PCA and Charlie Mulraine my Personal Development Manager, I showed him the message and he gave me an indication that we should do something with this and it was escalated. Throughout that time after Charlie recommended that we go through the police, Matt Himsworth through B5 Consultancy was there as my personal lawyer throughout the whole procedure. He was a sounding board and somebody who could set expectations. His service was completely invaluable, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him. Working with Matt, we contacted Nottinghamshire police and got in touch with one of the officers who then came to my address and took a statement and then explained the process and what it was going to involve.
How helpful were the police?
They put a marker on my parents’ house, my house and also the cricket ground so it was taken very seriously. The police were brilliant, especially the officer I had dealing with it. They made me feel very comfortable. It was a lengthy process because they had to track the individual down which required lots of data and they had lots of programmes to be able to do this. I was under the impression there wasn’t going to be anything in terms of potential criminal prosecutions because it was very blurred in terms of the contents of the message so there wasn’t anything they could pinpoint and say this is a criminal offence that they could go to prison for. We got to a stage three or four months down the line where they managed to track the individual, they located where he was. Finding their location was a shock for me because I didn’t think it would be a possibility. We were then recommended Restorative Justice where somebody from their team would essentially meet with the individual, look to get information from him which they would pass to me.
What did Restorative Justice do for you?
We had three or four meetings and at every one I felt like it was all about what I wanted to get from the process. They took care of the details of what I needed from the individual and gave the information back to me. They made me feel very supported and that’s the important thing. The last thing I wanted was to go to court for a formal procedure. That would have been quite intimidating, and I said to them that’s my main issue. The Restorative Justice process gave me that closure without having to go through an intensive procedure.
What was the outcome?
I did have the option to meet the individual face to face which I turned down in the end because I didn’t want to know who it was or put a face to a name. He wrote me a letter and he said he had instantly regretted what he said and that he didn’t think it would have the impact on me that it actually did. I think from my side it was for him to understand the severity of his actions and to ensure he would never do it again but also there was a marker that was put on him as an individual with the police so if anything was to happen again then criminal procedural route would be the next step. That was the benefit for me, I knew a lot of bases were covered and it was never going to happen again with this individual. I knew I had to put him through quite a gruelling process, over a year and a half for him having to go and give statements to the police.
Why are you speaking out about this?
Hopefully this can be a bit of a showpiece for people to understand there are actual consequences for actions that are not tolerated. I consider myself fortunate that I have gone through this process, understanding the resources from the PCA. Ultimately, we want to get to a point where nobody is using this resource, completely eradicating such issues within the game. People might think even if you have 100,000 followers that they might not see it. I guarantee you a lot of players are seeing a lot of things and reading a lot of things, and everything gets taken personally. Cricketers are not robots, we take things to heart, we have emotion at the end of the day.
What is your advice to PCA members?
I want to try and urge players to start speaking out because that is the biggest factor to start putting people off from saying these things. I spoke to Matt at great length at the end of the season and thanked him for everything that he had done throughout this time. He’s such a valuable resource there for all players which is amazing and a common theme throughout the PCA, people don’t actually realise some of the services that are offered to players, hence why I am trying to raise awareness for this. Players don’t need to hide behind any issues that they are dealing with. There are facilities and resources that are here to help and B5 Consultancy is just a fantastic example of that.