Kumble opens up January 11, 2008

Ponting was not 'willing to listen'

Cricinfo staff

Anil Kumble: "Unfortunately, these days, when someone apologises, it is seen as either a sign of weakness or an admission of guilt" © AFP

Anil Kumble says Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, was "not willing to listen" when Kumble offered to defuse the Harbhajan Singh-Andrew Symonds situation with an apology. Kumble believes the incident could have been handled by the captains during the Sydney Test.

"I spoke to Ricky that day," he wrote in his column for the Hindustan Times, "and having heard from Bhajji [Harbhajan] and Sachin before that, I was convinced that there had neither been any racist remark made, nor intended. I asked Harbhajan why he started it and he said he hadn't, Symonds did and goaded, he responded. But he insisted he made no racist comment.

"Ricky, meanwhile, was just not willing to listen, nor see my point. When I offered to apologise as Bhajji's skipper, it was only to smooth things over. At no stage did I admit that he had made a racist remark, in fact, I said he had not.

"Unfortunately, these days, when someone apologises, it is seen as either a sign of weakness or an admission of guilt. I am neither unnerved nor are we guilty. In the larger interests of the game, if an apology could help build bridges and smooth things over, then it is better made than left unsaid because of egos."

Kumble said the team had taken the matter seriously because they had a responsibility towards one of their colleagues. "In my book, it's really important that when somebody is accused of being a racist, whoever that someone is, the charge is not made lightly, followed up just to prove a point and is not deemed as proven unless there is absolute evidence. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Bhajji's case.

"Then again, he is a colleague and I have a responsibility towards him as his captain and as a fellow Indian. It is a serious allegation, calling someone a racist. You are not just accusing a cricketer, but the ramifications of this accusation, unproven in the eyes of mostly everyone, were bound to be huge. After all, India's cricketers are also the country's ambassadors and by making such serious charges, without proof, it becomes a question of honour."

While acknowledging the support of the Indian board and the fans, Kumble thought it was time to move on and look forward to some good cricket. "We're going to try and do our best in Perth, a place where no one expects anything much from us," he said. "We are disappointed that we couldn't enforce a draw in Sydney. We had a great opportunity when Hussey and Hayden were batting, to try and restrict their second innings score, but Hussey batted really well to put the game beyond us.

"Still, we should have at least tried for a draw despite that. We really need to get our batting in order. Too often, of late, we've struggled batting in our second innings to save a game. Here, we were three down at tea and then lost seven in a row.

"Finally, it's important that the game goes on. Cricket is larger than any individual. One of the reasons I have tried to put the game and other things in perspective is to ensure that we move on and play good cricket. I'll do my best but it takes two to tango and ensure things move smoothly. I can only hope it happens."