IPL: Australia look to patch up with India

Published: Friday, April 11, 2008, 11:33 [IST]
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Sydney: Australia's cricketers heading to play in the Indian Premier League have been urged to heal damaged sporting relations with the event's host nation.

After an acrimonious Test and one-day series earlier this year, when bad feeling between the two cricketing powers plunged to new depths, Australia are hopeful their presence at the pioneering tournament will repair the rift.

Rivalry between the teams turned ugly during the Harbhajan Singh-Andrew Symonds race row and India's subsequent threat to go home early if Harbhajan was banned.

Harbhajan was ruled out for three matches for allegedly racially abusing Symonds during the second Test in Sydney, but his suspension was later overturned on appeal.

Matthew Hayden then called Harbhajan an "obnoxious weed" on radio during the subsequent one-day series.

Ricky Ponting, Symonds and Brett Lee are among a large group of Australians spread across the eight franchises in the lucrative Twenty20 competition, which starts next week.

Australian administrators, coaches and agents believe their players are ideally placed to build bridges in India, especially as Australia are scheduled to tour India for a four-Test series in October-November.

Player agent Neil Maxwell, who is also the chief executive of the Mohali IPL franchise, urged the Australians to end the bitter atmosphere that has existed between the two national squads.

"If the players are smart, and already I've seen Matthew Hayden extend an olive branch, they'll use this opportunity... to be embraced by their local

community and then be appreciated by the broader cricket audience in India," Maxwell said Friday.

"There's definitely a level of negativity towards Australian players en masse, but there's an opportunity for Cricket Australia (CA) to do something about it, and they need to use this opportunity to build or enhance their brand image during this tournament."

CA chief executive James Sutherland said he was hopeful his players could remove any animosity by playing alongside their Indian rivals and spending time with them off the field.

"The potential is there once they all get together and communicate and understand each other better, it can break down a whole lot of those issues," he said.

"It takes willing parties to do that and I would be very optimistic that our players would be wanting to take that approach."

Former Australian coach John Buchanan, who will coach the Kolkata Knight Riders, said bringing together of different personalities and cultures would be beneficial for all cricketing nations.

"Players will get to know each other better," he said.

"That will mean there will be a greater understanding of how Australians play the game, how Indians, how Pakistanis, how South Africans play the game.

"The cultural mix is a huge plus for the game worldwide."

Lee, who enjoys immense popularity in India, said the chance to play alongside his rivals was what attracted him to play in the IPL.

"People were saying that relationships between India and Australia weren't at their best this summer -- which I don't really agree with," he said.

"Yes, there was an incident here and there but everyone gets on well off the field. But this is going to strengthen the ties between Australia and India," he said.

"If I'm playing alongside (India's Shantha) Sreesanth and (Sri Lanka's Kumar) Sangakkara and (Mahela) Jayawardene... it will give us a better understanding on how these guys go about their business.

"That's only got to improve relationships with every country."

Read more about: ipl, australia, ca, harbhajan, symonds
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