Australian players outraged over Bhajji acquittal

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 3:35 [IST]
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Adelaide: The acquittal of Harbhajan Singh of racial abuse charges has angered Australian cricketers who believe Cricket Australia (CA) has caved in to overwhelming pressure from the BCCI.

''The thing that pisses us off is that it shows how much power India has,'' a player contracted to Cricket Australia was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.

''The Aussie guys aren't going to make it (the accusation) up. The players are frustrated because this shows how much influence India has, because of the wealth they generate. Money talks.''

The BCCI had threatened to pull out of the Commonwealth Bank tri-series if Harbhajan was not cleared by ICC-appointed Appeals Commissioner, Justice John Hansen who heard the off-spinner's appeal against the three-Test ban imposed on him by Match Referee Mike Procter.

An Indian pull-out would have threatened Sri Lanka's participation in the CB Series as well. The Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Arjuna Ranatunga, and other senior board officials told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier that the board was keeping an eye on the developments in the hearing before deciding whether to commit to the tour or not.

Such an eventuality would have led to a loss of millions of dollars in TV rights, sponsorship and gate takings for the CA. It was also believed to be under pressure from broadcasters who could have sued had the series been abandoned.

The BCCI had also chartered a plane to whisk their ODI squad from Melbourne-- the venue for the Twenty20 match between India and Australia slated to be held on February 1 - to Adelaide, so that they could fly back home if the charges against Harbhajan were not dropped.

The move was described by Team India's Assistant Manager M V Sridhar, as a ''show of solidarity.'' The issue was, however, resolved late last night, when the CA and the BCCI issued a joint statement, saying Symonds and Harbhajan had ''resolved'' the issue and that both captains were also ''satisfied with the outcome.''

The verdict by Justice Hansen has, however, outraged the Australian players who maintain that Harbhajan abused Symonds during the controversial Sydney Test and also during the ill-tempered ODI series last year.

In audio evidence released by Channel Nine - and played before the appeals commissioner, Matthew Hayden is heard arguing with Harbhajan.

''You've got a witness now, champ,'' Hayden says . ''It's racial vilification, mate. It's a shit word and you know it.'' Harbhajan can be heard protesting that Symonds started the verbals, but the actual word is inaudible in the tapes.

''Ultimately, truth has prevailed,'' BCCI vice-president, Rajiv Shukla said. ''India has always stood against racism. Cricket is the victor in all this.''


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