Melbourne: Australian captain Ricky Ponting leapt to the defence of Andrew Symonds here Thursday after the appeals commissioner was critical of the Australian all-rounder in the Harbhajan Singh appeal hearing.
Harbhajan was originally suspended by match referee Mike Procter for allegedly calling Symonds a "big monkey" during the contentious second Test in Sydney.
But the suspension was overturned on appeal on Tuesday, with Justice John Hansen finding there was not enough evidence to prove Harbhajan had made the comment.
In his finding, Hansen said the whole scenario reflected poorly on cricket and was extremely critical of the behaviour of Symonds, who he said unnecessarily instigated the verbal exchange with the Indian spinner.
However, Ponting said he would not accept criticism of Symonds.
"Any sort of character assassination on Andrew Symonds would be completely unfair," Ponting said.
"He's someone who doesn't want this stuff happening, it's the second time with what he had to go through in India as well. It's the second time he's been through this sort of stuff and the last thing in the world he wants.
"What I do know is he's a terrific bloke, an honest bloke and he's a great teammate of mine, so I'll stick up for him at any opportunity."
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland also backed Symonds, saying he had been unfairly tarnished.
"Andrew Symonds is a brilliant cricketer, he's a tough, uncompromising cricketer in terms of the way he plays the game," Sutherland said.
"He plays the game like most Australians are brought up to play.
"There's no doubt for Andrew... there are probably some things for him to reflect on.
"But as a whole I would say perhaps some of the reporting is a little bit over the top."
In his finding Hansen, the appeals commissioner for the International Cricket Council, said Symonds had challenged Harbhajan with an "unnecessary invective-laden attack" after the Indian patted Brett Lee on the behind in what he viewed as a sporting gesture.
"That interchange had nothing to do with Mr Symonds but he determined to get involved and as a result was abusive towards Mr Singh," Hansen said.
"Mr Singh was, not surprisingly, abusive back."
Hansen said Symonds' evidence suggested he found it unacceptable that an opponent made a gesture that recognised the skill of one of his own teammates.
He quoted Symonds as saying: "A Test match is no place to be friendly with an opposition player."
"If that is his view I hope it is not one shared by all international cricketers," Hansen said. "It would be a sad day for cricket if it is."
Off-spinner Harbhajan was cleared of racially abusing Symonds but he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of using abusive language and was fined 50 percent of his match fee.