Sydney: India tentatively resumed their crisis-hit tour of Australia Wednesday as ICC defended their decision to sacrifice a top umpire to placate the seething tourists.
After staying in Sydney in protest at spinner Harbhajan Singh's three-match ban for racism following the explosive second Test, the Indian team set off for Canberra to prepare for a scheduled tour match beginning Thursday.
Their departure followed frantic efforts by the ICC to save the tour, including dumping West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor from the Test series and appointing a top official to ease the animosity between the two teams.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said it decided to go ahead with the tour after the ICC's intervention, although it still wanted the "unjustified and patently illegal ban" on Harbhajan dropped.
"The working committee of the Indian board took note of all relevant circumstances and developments and decided that Indian team's tour to Australia should continue for the present," Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah said in a statement from New Delhi.
In a sign that tensions could again flare, Shah warned the board would "review the tour and all other developments continuously."
Harbhajan allegedly called Australia's only black player Andrew Symonds a 'monkey' but the Indians say the accusation, reported by Australian captain Ricky Ponting during the second Test in Sydney, is 'obnoxious and baseless'.
The ICC has said Harbhajan will be allowed to play the final two Tests in Perth and Adelaide until the commissioner, who was yet to be named, has completed his inquiry.
The match was also marred by umpiring bungles from Bucknor and ended with Indian captain Anil Kumble branding the Australians unsporting, overshadowing the host team's record-equalling 16th straight Test win.
Australia's Brad Hogg is facing a ban of up to four Tests after being charged with making an offensive remark to Kumble and his vice-captain, Mahendra Singh Doni.
ICC head Malcolm Speed admitted the highly respected Bucknor was "the meat in the sandwich" in the row but said his removal at India's insistence did not set a dangerous precedent allowing teams to demand the sacking of officials.
"What we have here is a unique situation; we've got allegations of racism, we have unhappiness with umpires, players being suspended, we've got an international incident that's running out of control," he told public radio.
"We need to get it back on track, one of the ways we can do that is to get a new umpiring team in place, I don't think we'll have those circumstances again. If we do, then it'll be dealt with at that time."
However Australian media, who had earlier rounded on their own cricket stars, were incensed at the 'blackmail' of the ICC by India, which wields significant financial clout in the sport.
"Bullies prosper and sport suffers," the Daily Telegraph headlined an editorial describing the BCCI as "the powerful new rajahs of world cricket."
The Australian newspaper said in an editorial headlined "Time to stop whining and play the game" that "the Indian board's stance amounts to attempted blackmail and it cannot be tolerated.
"Holding the game to ransom in such a way is arrogant and bad sportsmanship," it said.
Meanwhile Australian sporting legends added their voices to domestic criticism of the country's cricketers over their behaviour on the Test's dramatic final day.
"Sport is only sport. It's not war," said Hall of Fame chairman, yachtsman John Bertrand, accusing the players of tarnishing Australia's international reputation.
"Their desire to win at all costs is beginning to blur their moral compass," he said.