Champion bowler surprised by Kumble's call January 7, 2008

McGrath backs former team-mates

Glenn McGrath says there should be no questions over Ricky Ponting's integrity © Getty Images

Glenn McGrath has defended his former Australia team-mates against claims from Anil Kumble, the India captain, that they played outside the spirit of the game at the SCG. McGrath was disappointed with Kumble's comment after the 122-run loss, which included disputes over umpiring, walking and catching, and ended with Harbhajan Singh being suspended for three Tests for racial abuse.

McGrath, who is making a Twenty20 comeback for New South Wales on Tuesday, also backed the integrity of Ricky Ponting while supporting Australia for their "hard and fair" attitude. "Anil's a great guy and quite reserved so I find it quite surprising that he would come out and say that [about the spirit of the game]," McGrath said. "From an Australian point of view, I know the way the guys play and I have total respect for every guy that pulls on a baggy green. The Australians play it hard and fair."

In an emotional end to the Test, Ponting also answered claims of double standards over claiming contentious catches. In the first innings Ponting said his take off Rahul Dravid was not out, but in the second his appeal against Mahendra Singh Dhoni continued despite replays suggesting the ball had touched the ground. He was also a key figure in Sourav Ganguly's dismissal to a low catch to Michael Clarke, telling the umpire Mark Benson it was out.

McGrath said there was "definitely not" any doubt over Ponting's adherence to the rules. "If they want to look at his integrity they only need to look at the first innings," McGrath said. "That catch, he could have caught it, but he was unsure and he said it - end of story. I saw the replay of what they were talking about yesterday. To me, the replays showed it flicked the glove, he dived back, caught it, and was well in control of the ball."

The BCCI plans to lodge a formal complaint over the umpiring at the SCG, particularly the performance of Steve Bucknor, who is due to stand in the third Test, and McGrath said the officials needed greater support. He called for the ICC international panel to be expanded from its current collection of eight.

"Umpires have a tough thing to do," he said. "There's only eight on the panel, there should be more. At the end of the day they call it the way they see it, which is the way it's always been. Some days you are going to get bad decisions, some days you'll get good ones. You can't pick and choose when you want to complain about it."

McGrath will head to India in April to play in the Indian Premier League and he had no concerns about any lingering fall-out. "Indians love their cricket, it's an amazing place and I'm looking forward to going back," he said. "Emotions look pretty high at the moment, once everything settles down and they prepare for the next Test, hopefully it will be forgotten."

The controversies have overshadowed Australia's winning streak, which equalled the mark set by Steve Waugh's team between 1999 and 2001. McGrath was part of that outfit and was impressed with the modern display.

"Sixteen in a row is a phenomenal effort," he said. "For a Test to go five days, right down to the last ten minutes, is amazing. The way the boys won it with three wickets in the last over, you wish every game would go like that."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo