The racial row issue July 10, 2008

Australia wants mediation in racial abuse cases

Cricinfo staff

Cricket Australia has asked the ICC to introduce a mediation phase in racial vilification cases in international cricket. The proposal is an attempt to avoid the sort of controversy which arose when Indian offspinner Harbhajan Singh was charged with racially abusing Australian allrounder Andrew Symonds in January this year.

Australia wants a system where the first step in case of an incident of this nature would be a mediation session, ideally confidential, with prosecution used as the last resort. Melbourne's Age newspaper said the proposal was debated at the ICC's annual meeting in Dubai last week, where Australia argued that the existing process failed all parties.

The ICC is reportedly unconvinced but the paper said, "CA is determined to keep pushing for a less combative process that, in the first instance, aims for the offender to understand why a particular remark is unacceptable.

"We think this is important, and we're continuing to argue the case," Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young said. "It is consistent with our view, and the ICC's view, that cricket should have a zero-tolerance approach to racism in sport. We need to understand what we need to do to encourage cultural acceptance, and that it's more complicated than simply writing a list of rules.

"Genuine, properly structured, well-founded mediation can have really good results. You can achieve reconciliation and move on."

Harbhajan was initially suspended by ICC match referee Mike Procter after Australian players testified they had heard him call Symonds a "monkey" during the Sydney Test in January. The ban was overturned on appeal after the charge was downgraded to verbal abuse.

The Australian cricketers were reportedly angered by the fallout from the Sydney Test, and felt badly let down by Cricket Australia, who they believe succumbed to pressure from India.

"Ricky (Ponting) did exactly what he was instructed to do, and it all went pear-shaped from there," Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive Paul Marsh told the Age. "Why would any player put himself in that position?"