12 minutes ago
MELBOURNE, Australia - India's beleaguered cricketers got good news on
two fronts - their suspended spin bowler can play until a hearing is
held to discuss his appeal, and the umpire they complained
vociferously about won't officiate in the next Test.
International Cricket Council president Malcolm Speed said Tuesday
that a hearing into the India-lodged appeal of Harbjajan Singh's three-
Test ban on a racism charge will likely be held before the next Test,
which is scheduled from Jan. 16 in Perth.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India had suspended its tour
pending the outcome of Harbhajan's appeal hearing.
Speed said if the hearing was not held before the start of the Perth
match, Harbhajan would be eligible to play in the third Test.
Speed also said West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor will be replaced by
New Zealand's Billy Bowden. India had demanded Bucknor be removed from
the third Test following the team's anger towards his performance in
the second Test in Sydney, where up to five questionable decisions
went against them in the match they lost by 122 runs.
Speed acknowledged some people would be unhappy because India had
requested Bucknor be removed.
"I can understand that people will take that view," he said. "It is an
extraordinary set of circumstances and we want to take some of the
tension out of the situation."
India's players tried to take some tension out as well - playing beach
volleyball with lifesavers at Sydney's iconic Bondi beach earlier
Harbhajan was suspended for allegedly calling Australian fielder
Andrew Symonds a monkey on day three of a controversial second Test in
The Indian cricket board condemned the penalty imposed by match
referee Mike Procter and announced it would cease "operations" on the
Australia tour pending Harbhajan's appeal.
What was initially reported as a thinly veiled threat from India to
withdraw from the remaining two Test matches and a limited-overs
series, was tempered Tuesday by team management.
"There's no thinking as of now of doing anything drastic towards the
tour," India's media manager Dr. M.V. Sridhar said. "We're awaiting
instructions from the BCCI and we're hoping they will communicate
something to us today and as soon as we receive the instructions we
will react accordingly.
"We hope we're going to appeal today and we're waiting for that."
Sridhar said Harbhajan, who was given 24 hours to appeal after the
sanction was announced early Monday in Dubai by the ICC, did not make
any racial comments toward Symonds - who has Caribbean heritage and is
the only black player on the Australian team.
"We're very clear that Harbhajan has not said that," Sridhar said as
the Indian team did some light exercise and had lunch at Bondi. "We
feel there's not much evidence to say he said that either."
When asked by waiting media weather he was confident of winning his
appeal, Harbhajan nodded his head and said "yes" before boarding the
team bus for Bondi.
Symonds was voted player of the match that gave Australia a world
record 16th consecutive Test victories, but was involved in three
On day one, he was given not out on 30 despite later admitting he
nicked the ball to the wicketkeeper and went on to post a career-high
162 not out.
On the last day, he appealed for a caught behind decision against
Rahul Dravid and the same umpire, Bucknor, stunningly gave the Indian
opener out in a decisive stage of the match.
The racism allegation stems from a confrontation between Symonds and
Harbhajan while the Indians were batting on day three. Symonds had
earlier complained of being racially taunted by fans in India during
Australia's tour there last October.
India had been due to leave for Canberra on Monday but, after the bulk
of the players spent two hours in a bus parked outside the team's
Sydney hotel, was instructed by the BCCI not to leave.
The two-day match is due to start Thursday in the Australian capital
and, despite the impasse, local authorities say they have not been
told to stop planning to host the match.
The BCCI has formally complained about the level of umpiring in the
Sydney Test match, when at least five bad calls went against the
tourists, and the International Cricket Council is meeting to discuss
Sridhar said the Indian cricket board thought it unfair of Procter to
take the word of three Australians over the word of Harbhajan and his
teammate Sachin Tendulkar when there appeared to be no other evidence.
He said the racism allegation was the "final nail" that caused the
angry reaction from India.
The racism allegation has "given an unfortunate dimension to the
entire thing and is definitely what's disturbing," he said, adding
that it was possible for rival captains Anil Kumble or India and
Australia's Ricky Ponting to meet and try to resolve the situation.
Kumble declined comment. Immediately after the match, he accused the
Australians of being bad sports when he said, "only one team was
playing in the spirit of the game."
India could risk a US$2 million fine from the ICC if it refuses to
continue playing the tour.