New Delhi: World cricket's chief rule-maker Sunil Gavaskar on Tuesday rubbished growing criticism over a controversial newspaper column, saying he never called match referee Mike Procter a racist.
The former India captain, who heads the International Cricket Council's (ICC) rule-making committee, is under fire for suggesting that the decision to ban Harbhajan Singh was not based on facts.
Gavaskar has been accused by the media of labelling Procter a racist following the South African's decision to ban Harbhajan for three Tests for racially abusing Australian Andrew Symonds during the Sydney Test.
"That is a complete lie," Gavaskar was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India from Perth where the third Test starts on Wednesday.
"Please do not go by the sensationalist headlines. I would ask my detractors to please read the piece carefully and tell me if I, personally, have called Mr Mike Procter a racist.
"I never called Procter a racist. People who say so have not read the piece. It's the headlines which have been ascribed to me," Gavaskar said.
Gavaskar wrote in his syndicated column in the Hindustan Times on Sunday that the charge against Harbhajan, which has been referred to an appeals commissioner, should be dropped immediately for lack of evidence.
"By accepting the word of the Australian players and not the Indian players, the match referee has exposed himself to the charge of taking a decision based not on facts, but on emotion," Gavaskar wrote.
"Worse still, his decision has incensed millions of Indians, who are quite understandably asking why his decision should not be considered a racist one, considering the charges that were levied on Harbhajan were of a racist remark.
"Millions of Indians want to know if it was a 'white man' taking the 'white man's' word against that of the 'brown man'.
"Quite simply if there was no audio evidence nor did the officials hear anything then the charge did not stand."
Gavaskar, in his column, also lauded the Indian board for demanding the removal of West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor as the team had lost faith in him.
"Here the ICC too deserves praise for the swiftness with which it tried to defuse the tension by removing Bucknor from the duties of umpiring at Perth," he wrote.
"But the ICC will do well to keep in mind that there were two umpires out there who had a bad game and not penalise only one or it could be up against a racist charge too.
"Throughout, as the controversy unfolded, it was only Bucknor that the Aussie media was pillorying and not (Mark) Benson. You form your opinion whether it was racist or not."
Former New Zealand captain John Reid was on Tuesday quoted in Australian media as saying Gavaskar had no business heading the ICC's rule-making committee after criticising a match referee.
South African great Barry Richards also accused Gavaskar of playing the racism card.