India in Australia 2007-08 January 9, 2008

ICC defends Bucknor decision

Cricinfo staff

Ray Mali: "It's now time for the focus to return to the cricket" © AFP

Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, has defended the decision to replace Steve Bucknor with Billy Bowden for the third Test in Perth, saying it was done for the better of the game and not to please India. "We could have taken a confrontational tone but we took a diplomatic approach," he told the Times. "We have got an international sporting incident where countries are polarised. What we are seeking to do is avoid having that turn into an international crisis.

"We have taken away one of the points of issue that has caused this passionate response in both countries. If Bucknor had been umpiring, commentators and public would have pored over every decision Steve made."

Speed also felt the Australian side need to realise the brickbats they are receiving for their behaviour. "They are a great cricket team; I would hate to see them remembered for any reason other than that," he was quoted in the Age. "The team is being criticised, members of the team are being criticised and they need to to be aware of that - they need to respond to that."

Meanwhile, ICC president Ray Mali also backed the decision to remove Bucknor from officiating in Perth. "We recognised from the outset that the umpiring in the second Test was below the very high standard we have come to expect from our Elite Panel and we noted with concern the enormous reaction to it and realised that we could potentially have a serious international diplomatic incident on our hands," Mali said. "By standing Steve down for the third Test we have successfully defused the situation, at least for the time being, and so what was a sporting issue has not become a political crisis.

"We could easily have taken an inflexible stance and gone toe-to-toe with those who were calling for Steve's withdrawal but instead we chose to adopt a more diplomatic and reasonable approach. And on balance it was the right thing to do, for the game and for the series.

Mali also issued a reminder that Bucknor's removal had nothing to do with Harbhajan Singh's appeal. "It is also worth reminding people that the decision to replace Steve for this match had nothing to do with the Harbhajan Singh Code of Conduct hearing. That process is ongoing and will run its full course.

"As is his right, Harbhajan has appealed the guilty finding of the hearing. The appeals process has been part of the ICC Code of Conduct for seven years so there is nothing new or unusual about this.

Mali said he expected all parties to accept the decision of the findings of the appeals' commissioner and hoped the attention would shift to the game . "Over the past few days there have been too many emotive comments from too many people and it's now time for the focus to return to the cricket."

Speed dismissed suggestions that the appeal on Harbhajan Singh's three-Test ban will be delayed so as to ensure the series will go on without further controversy.

"We may have the hearing before the third Test. If not, we are hopeful we can have it before the fourth Test," Speed said. "I am very pleased the tour is going ahead, there is a process in place for appeals and Harbhajan has appealed," he said. "India have signed off on the appeals process. They were there when all the discussions took place.

Speed said the ICC won't budge under the pressure of the Indian board. "We can't have one set of rules for the India team and another set for everyone else," he said. "We will follow the process and and I hope whatever the outcome all parties will be able to say they have had a fair hearing."