The decision by the Chennai Super Kings, the defending champions of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019, to rope in New Zealand all-rounder Scott Kuggeleijn to replace Lungi Ngidi has sparked controversy. The reason: Scott Kuggeleijn has been accused of rape.
Scott Kuggeleijn, the son of former New Zealand cricket player Chris Kuggeleijn, made his ODI debut for New Zealand in 2017, months after he was acquitted by a court in New Zealand. He was accused of raping a woman in an apartment in Hamilton in 2015 and had faced trial in court twice. While the first jury could not find him guilty, the second jury acquitted him, stating that it was not possible to ascertain âwithout reasonable doubt,â that he had committed the sexual assault.
Though he was acquitted, the arguments made by his defence counsel during the trial as well as the statements submitted to the court on Kuggeleijnâs behalf were outrageous and insensitive.
What happened during the trial
Not just his acquittal, the mentality portrayed by Kuggeleijn and his defence counsel continued to face flak from the international community. During the trial, Kuggeleijn had admitted that the woman had not consented to have sex with him and had, in fact, said ânoâ to his persistent attempts. He informed the court that he had apologised to the woman the very next day through a text message. The trial also had ugly episodes of the defence counsel trying too hard to paint the woman as a âslutâ who did not consent to sex emphatically enough.
The silence of New Zealandâs cricket authorities
Adding to the controversy was the radio silence adopted by New Zealandâs cricket regulatory body, New Zealand Cricket. During the period when he was accused and facing the trial, New Zealand Cricket reportedly made no comments on the charges. On the contrary, within a month from his acquittal, New Zealand Cricket gave him the red carpet and the coveted black cap for his One Day International debut. This was promptly followed till 2019 January, when he made his T20 debut playing for the Kiwis. Not a word of condemnation has, till date, been put out by affiliated cricketing bodies in New Zealand over this.
When TNM contacted CSKâs team manager Russell Radhakrishnan, he refused to comment. âWe cannot comment anything on that,â he said.
CSKâs actions suggest a lack of seriousness on ensuring the safety of women working with their team. Further, it also denigrates the trauma suffered by the survivor in Scottâs case and also in many other cases where the survivors have spoken out against powerful people in society. It also reflects badly on the team and is seen as its lack of conviction in sending a clear message to its team members about what is expected out of them in terms of conduct.
Scott Kuggeleijn has officially joined the CSK team as of yesterday and never ever ever have I been so disappointed. He maybe a fantastic cricketer but he was accused of rape (acquitted, yes).â Subiksha Raman (@subiksharaman) April 5, 2019
@IPL @ChennaiIPL âs new signing is a man who admits to âhaving sexâ with a women despite hearing her say ânoâ a few times.â Vikas Muralidharan (@vikas_murali) April 4, 2019
NZ cricket board has been silent so far, hope that CSK will not be@IPL #ChennaiSuperKings #CSK #IPLT20 pic.twitter.com/9AL4NhlzfA
Still on Kuggeleijn. You may read this, based almost entirely on confessions at the trial.https://t.co/23i9tRfb6eâ Abhishek Mukherjee (@ovshake42) April 3, 2019
Kuggeleijn: "I tried [having sex] twice, like she might have said 'no, no' a few times but it wasn't dozens of times."
Is anyone going to pressure #CSK @whistIepodu to drop the rapist cricketer that they just signed? #Kuggeleijn @indiametoo @MasalaBai @ghosh_annesha @ghazalawahab @melindafarrell @cricbuzz @bhogleharsha @_PriyankaCRaina https://t.co/zT4mDcBoe8â dosahungry (@dosahungry) April 3, 2019
âThe powerful will protect their ownâ
Sharda Ugra, senior editor at ESPNcricinfo and ESPNIndia tells TNM that CSKâs decision to sign Scott Kuggeleijn is not surprising at all.
"This is another example of tone-deafness of cricket and Indian cricket in an environment where #MeToo has shown us how harassment and violence against women are normalized and widespread. I noticed how the BCCI responded to a case against its CEO Rahul Johri. The probe was inadequate. So I am not surprised that he [Scott Kuggeleijn] has turned up here,â she says.
Adding that in cricket, such issues are effectively non-issues, she says, âI donât think there is any comprehension about this kind of thing being a problem in terms of cricket. For women, it is an unsettling thing to accept such behaviour. So it is unsettling, but not surprising at all,â she adds.
Sharda explains that ideally, the franchises should carry out independent background checks on the players they intend to sign contracts with.
âThe players are usually protected from accusations. When he (the player) comes out to play, he will still be accepted. The authorities or the team administration will not say anything about it. The commentators will not mention that this man has come from a controversial past,â she says. Adding that the obligation to mention the shady past of a player will not even be a blip in the conscience of the men controlling the field, she says, âThe powerful protect their own.â