Indian team stays on in Sydney to push ban appeal
The Indian team has remained in Sydney, instead of leaving for Canberra on Monday morning as scheduled, until they receive further instructions from the Indian board. The team is understood to be deeply disappointed with Sunday's events and is pushing for an early return home but all decisions will be taken only at the highest level of the BCCI.
Around 4.15 pm local time, MV Sridhar, India's assistant manager, confirmed that team had been instructed by the BCCI to stay in Sydney till further instructions. It is understood that the team had received the official document regarding Harbhajan's ban.
The team was set to leave for Canberra by coach at 10:30 am local time but decided against it, wanting to sort out the issues before hitting the road. The players had a meeting that lasted close to two hours this morning. No member of the support staff was present.
The mood in the Hotel Radisson, where the team is staying, has been one of hurt. There is a sense of anger that one of their own has been labelled a 'racist', a stigma which may stick on through his career. There is also a disappointment over the umpiring decisions that marred the game.
The team is waiting for a detailed written order from the match referee on what exactly all the racism charges were. "After the initial heat of the moment when emotions were running high, we decided we would wait and see what exactly the statement from the match referee was," a senior player told the Hindustan Times.
"In any case,the decision whether tours will continue or not is not up to us, since the repercussions are bigger than cricket or this tour. The players are keen to play cricket because we want to play fair and square, and once things settle down in the next few days, we can go back to the game itself."
Ricky Ponting added to the debate on Monday in an interview with Channel Nine, when he declined to reveal what was said between Harbhajan and Symonds on the field but offered a blunt assessment when asked if the situation "smacks of racism". "I think that's been proven," Ponting said.
Ponting also said he was surprised by the speculation that India's tour might be cancelled and that they had not sent their players to Canberra as planned. "They're entitled to do whatever they think is appropriate at the time but for me that would be a little bit extreme, I must admit," he said.
In New Delhi, the Indian board issued a statement after a meeting of its senior officials. "The BCCI is filing an appeal challenging match referee Mike Procter's order on spinner Harbhajan Singh," Rajeev Shukla, the board's vice-president, said. "The unfair allegation of racism against our player is wholly unacceptable. The game of cricket is paramount but so too is the honour of India's cricket team and every Indian. The BCCI is committed to protecting the country's fair name. India's national commitment is against racism. Our national struggle is based on values which negate racism.
"The BCCI will request the ICC [to review the ban decision] and, in its appeal, to suspend the order against Harbhajan Singh till the disposal of the appeal. "
Harbhajan was banned for three Tests by Mike Procter, the match referee, for racial abuse against Andrew Symonds. The team has decided to appeal the ban, which it must do so within 24 hours, hence the urgency to obtain a copy of Procter's order.
The situation comes a day after India lost the second Test in Sydney in controversial circumstances, with a host of umpiring decisions going against them. The Indian board has already filed a complaint to the ICC on the standard of umpiring by Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson.