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Cricket’s day of shame

The Indian cricket board (BCCI) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) have come under attack from sections of the Australian media after India spinner Harbhajan Singh was cleared of racially abusing Andrew Symonds.

Australian newspapers accused the BCCI of using their financial muscle to hold the world game to ransom while criticising the ICC for bowing to their demands.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline read “Cricket’s day of shame” while The Australian proclaimed “Cricket caves in to India’s demands.” The Sun-Herald’s main headline was “India gets its way, Harbhajan charge downgraded, ban overturned.”

Harbhajan had originally been suspended for three matches after being found guilty of calling Symonds, Australia’s only black player, a “monkey” during this month’s bad-tempered second test in Sydney.

The Indian cricket board had threatened to cancel the tour unless the ICC dropped the charges but the crisis was averted on Tuesday when Harbhajan won an appeal against the original ruling.

Harbhajan was cleared when the appeal judge agreed to downgrade the charge to the lesser offence of abusing an opponent.

He pleaded guilty and was fined half his match fee but the three-match ban was lifted.

The broadsheet Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Indian cricket board had chartered a plane to take their players home if the verdict went against Harbhajan while Cricket Australia persuaded their own players to drop the charges and agree to a lesser offence.

The paper said Australia’s players were privately seething about the turn of events but were left with no option because Cricket Australia feared the prospect of a multimillion dollar lawsuit if the tour was scrapped.

“World cricket authorities have caved in to the game’s financial superpower, India, and Cricket Australia has incurred the wrath of its own test players by pressuring them to drop a racial slur charge against Harbhajan Singh,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“The Board of Control for Cricket in India had even chartered a plane to take its players home tomorrow if the Indian player’s three-test suspension — for calling Australia’s Andrew Symonds a monkey during the Sydney test — had not been overturned at yesterday’s appeal in the Federal Court in Adelaide.”

Former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck, writing in the same newspaper, said the Indian cricket board should be condemned for their abuse of power.

“If this is the way the Indian board intends to conduct its affairs hereafter, then God help cricket,” Roebuck wrote. “Brinkmanship or not, threatening to take their bat and ball home in the event of a resented verdict being allowed to stand was an abomination.

It sets a dreadful precedent. What price justice now?” Peter Lalor, writing in the national broadsheet The Australian, said the decision was further proof of India’s ability to wield their financial power to win events off the field.

“India, the team that bleated about the spirit of cricket after being beaten in Sydney, has again held a gun to the game’s head and had its demands met,” Lalor wrote.


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