Ponting, Kumble seek to calm crisis

Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008, 11:03 [IST]
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Ponting, Kumble seek to calm crisis

CANBERRA: The Australian and Indian cricket captains sought to ease the racism and sportsmanship crisis which has engulfed their series, as India returned to action on Thursday after fears they would abandon the tour.

India's Anil Kumble said he was hoping to hold talks with his opposite number, while the under-pressure Ricky Ponting said he wanted to ensure "the guys are remembered as being good people as well as great cricketers."

"It's important that Ricky and I get together and speak," Kumble told reporters in Canberra, where India began a tour match against the Australian Capital Territory XI.

"We are equal partners in ensuring that cricket is played in the right spirit, and I'm sure moving forward everybody can stick to that.

"On behalf of my team, I can assure we will play it in the right spirit."

The conciliatory tone follows Sunday's explosive finale to the second Test in Sydney, when ill-feeling between two of the world's biggest teams reached fever pitch.

Kumble accused Australia, who narrowly won the match for a 2-0 series lead, of poor sportsmanship, a charge echoed -- unusually -- by the Australian media and public.

Spin bowler Harbhajan Singh received a three-Test ban for alleged racism, prompting India to effectively halt their tour in protest.

India made the trip to Canberra only after umpire Steve Bucknor, whom the tourists faulted over a number of key decisions, was axed from the rest of the four-Test series.

However India, the sport's financial powerhouse, have issued veiled threats to suspend the tour again if their appeal against Harbhajan's ban fails.

Kumble revealed that he had asked Australian skipper Ponting to settle the race row without making a formal complaint, local media reported.

But Ponting told him he had already spoken to the umpires after Harbhajan allegedly called Australia's only black player, Andrew Symonds, a "monkey."

Kumble said he knew the claim, disputed by India, "would definitely spiral into what it has now."

"I did make a request when that incident happened on that particular day to Ricky Ponting, that the matter could be sorted out between us," he said.

"But it went up to the match referee. His response was there had already been a report."

Ponting meanwhile, who was described by the Daily Telegraph as "dumbfounded" by the backlash over the Sydney Test, rejected widespread charges of arrogance as well as calls for his removal.

"I don't think anyone wants the way Australia plays cricket to change," he said. "Everyone likes to see a tough, uncompromising brand of cricket.

"But if there are areas in our game to improve then obviously we need to address that."

The Australian skipper said his parents had even been forced to change their home phone number after receiving threatening and abusive calls during the crisis.

Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland on Wednesday gave strong backing to Ponting's team, saying they were playing Test cricket, "not tiddlywinks."


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