Sydney: Australia's media turned on the nation's champion cricketers over their bitter row with India Tuesday, branding them "boorish" and "arrogant," and with one newspaper demanding captain Ricky Ponting be axed.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph said the crisis that had engulfed the game since Australia's ill-tempered second Test victory over India here on Sunday was the worst since the infamous Bodyline series against England in 1932-33.
The row erupted after India's Harbhajan Singh received a three-match ban for allegedly calling Australia's only black player Andrew Symonds a "monkey" and the Indians accused the Australia of breaching the spirit of the game.
"The arrogant Ponting must be sacked," ran the front page headline in the Sydney Morning Herald, while the banner heading on The Australian newspaper's feature page screamed "Ugly Australians".
With fears India may cancel the rest of its tour Down Under over spinner Singh's suspension for racism, the media turned the spotlight on the Australians' onfield behaviour that has left the tourists seething.
"It has become apparent in recent years that the attitude and behaviour of Australian players worsens the moment their superiority is seriously challenged," The Australian's Mike Coward wrote.
He said the Australian cricketers regarded themselves as hard-nosed and aggressive but failed to understand that many in their own country and beyond found their antics "boorish, arrogant and ungracious".
The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Roebuck singled out Ricky Ponting as the main culprit, saying he should be sacked because he was so intent on victory that he allowed the team to behave in a way that embarrassed Australia.
"He turned a group of professional cricketers into a pack of wild dogs," Roebuck wrote, citing the failure by some players to walk when clearly out, the sledging aimed at the Indians and Australia's strutting victory celebrations.
The Herald said in an editorial that Singh deserved to be reprimanded but it was the Australian side's long-standing penchant for sledging that had helped introduce such aggression into the game.
"Apparently it's fine for Australian players to question the masculinity of opposing players, the legitimacy of their birth, or the faithfulness of their wives ... but now Australia goes to the cricket court at the drop of a racist jibe," it said.
The Daily Telegraph accused India of "holding world cricket to ransom" by flexing its financial muscle with an alleged threat to boycott the tour unless the Singh suspension was reversed.
"India's cricketing wealth may be 50 times that of any rival but that does not give them the right to run the game," Telegraph cricket writer Robert Craddock wrote.
The newspaper said the Australian public had reached a damning verdict on its cricket team in an online poll, with 79 percent of respondents saying it did not play in the true spirit of the game.
In the same poll, 83 percent said Ricky Ponting was not a good ambassador for the game.
The issue also dominated newspaper letters pages and talkback radio airwaves, with one commercial radio caller "Srinith" saying other Test nations should avoid Australia until the side's sledging was reined in.
However, many letter writers said that instead of disputing Singh's punishment, India should condemn racism.
"Calling Andrew Symonds a monkey is not on, and Mr Singh has been given his sentence," Wendy Kelly said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph.