Focus still primarily fixed on Harbhajan ban January 8, 2008

BCCI welcomes Bucknor's Test dropping

Cricinfo staff

Out: Steve Bucknor has been dumped for the third Test in Perth © Getty Images

The Indian board has welcomed the removal of umpire Steve Bucknor from the third Test against Australia in Perth but has said the bigger issue is the three-Test ban on Harbhajan Singh. The focus now shifts to the meeting of the board's working committee in New Delhi on Tuesday evening - that, the board president, Sharad Pawar, said is where the next course of action would be decided on.

"We are watching the Harbhajan issue more closely," the board secretary, Niranjan Shah, told PTI. "It is more important that the umpiring issue because he has been accused of racism and we will never tolerate any such thing. We have already made an appeal against his ban and we are waiting for the process to start."

His words were echoed by the board's chief administrative officer, Ratnakar Shetty. "For us, Harbhajan's case is more important at this point of time," he said. "The manner in which the hearing was conducted, that itself has been challenged."

While speculation is rife over the future of the tour to Australia the thinking in the board appears to be focussed on the "battle of nerves", trying to get their demands without taking any extreme step like boycotting the tour.

The emergency meeting of the board on Monday involved officials speaking to Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Chetan Chauhan, the team manager. All narrated first-hand accounts, including Ganguly and Tendulkar talking about what went on when they were in the middle.

The board it is learnt, felt that priority should be given to sorting out the umpiring matters instead of quitting cricket. A pull-out, it seems, is being seen as a last resort, especially given the implications of such an action. Apart from heavy financial losses, which the board can probably absorb, there is also a matter of Australia and India set to play quite a number of bilateral series in the near future.

There was a bit of debate about the team staying on in Sydney, considering that they were booked only till January 7, but the board decided to pay for the team's stay in case Cricket Australia had a problem. It is still unclear if CA is bearing the costs for the stay but the team has decided to stay put till receiving further instructions from the BCCI.