Harbhajan ban ignites Test storm

Published: Monday, January 7, 2008, 11:06 [IST]
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Harbhajan ban ignites Test storm

Bangalore, Jan 7: The bad blood between India and Australia is set to continue after the International Cricket Council (ICC) ended the Australian tour for Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh, banning him for three Test matches.

Harbhajan's ban for racially abusing Australia's Andrew Symonds came after an SCG Test which saw Australia's dramatic win marred by a string of bad umpiring decisions. Many Indian and Australian cricket fans were left with a sour taste in their mouths, and India's captain, Anil Kumble, was certainly unimpressed with Ricky Ponting's team.At a post-match media conference, he said "only one side" was playing within the spirit of the game.

India's Board for Control for Cricket (BCCI) says it will appeal against the ban, but has denied early reports that India will pull out of the tour.

Meanwhile Indian media is providing wall-to-wall coverage of ICC decision.MR Mishra is the chief of the Press Trust of India's sports bureau and says the Indian public feels Harbhajan is being victimised.

"[They feel] this is part of the Australian strategy to go against them because they have been having a running feud with the Indian team, right through the tour against India in October," he said.

"So this has been going on, and this is seen as a deliberate campaign against the Indians, and there is a lot of anger about it."

The ICC's decision to ban Harbhajan came after a marathon eight-hour hearing in Sydney overnight.

The incident in question happened midway through the steadying batting partnership between Harbhajan and India's star Sachin Tendulkar on Friday.

Symonds, who is of Caribbean descent, and Harbhajan appeared to trade insults between overs, and within minutes Australian captain Ricky Ponting reported Harbhajan to the umpires for calling Symonds a "monkey".

Both Indian and Australian fans say the matter should not have gone before the authorities - they say sledging is part of cricket.

Umpiring decisions

India's frustrations have been compounded by bad umpiring decisions that mostly went in Australia's favour.

Man of the match Symonds admitted he was caught behind on 30 during Australia's first innings. The umpire missed it, and Symonds went on to make 162 not out.

At the post-match press conference last night, Kumble said his country would lodge a formal complaint to the ICC.

"I think only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that's all I can say," he said.

The tensions spilled out into the press conference, with a heated exchange between Ponting and an Indian journalist.

"And I think, if you're questioning my integrity in the game, then you shouldn't be standing here," Ponting said.

Mr Mishra says it is an understatement to say Indians are unhappy.

And he says India has requested that umpire Steve Bucknor not be used for the remainder of the tour.

"I'm told from my sources that the ICC will definitely not put him on duty for the remaining matches - definitely not in Perth," he said.

OneIndia News

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