India withdraw charge against Hogg
Two days before the Perth Test the sun finally shone through the cloud that has been hanging over this series for the past week, with India dropping their charge of abuse against Brad Hogg, Australia's chinaman bowler. Later in the day, it would emerge that the two captains had agreed to scrap the contentious catching agreement that sparked off the controversy surrounding Michael Clarke.
Hogg was accused of making an offensive remark to Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni during the second Test in Sydney and charged under Level 3 of the ICC Code of Conduct following a complaint by Indian team manager Chetan Chauhan.
The decision to drop charges was taken at a meeting of the two captains, Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble, convened by Ranjan Madugalle, the ICC's chief match referee, who was flown in in the aftermath of the Sydney Test controversy. It capped an evening of fast-moving developments that saw six statements read out at the local Hyatt in the space of a couple of hours.
It gives the Indian team the moral high ground and transfers pressure back on to Australia to drop the racism charge levelled at Harbhajan Singh - which will now be heard after the Test series - and Kumble, it is believed, indicated during the meeting the ball was in Australia's court. However, it is understood that Australia will not be able, on technical grounds, to drop the racism charge against Harbhajan. The charge against Hogg was levelled by Chauhan, who withdrew it on Monday, while in Harbhajan's case, the charges were brought by both the on-field umpires after a complaint by Ponting.
Nonetheless, it was a significant decision and Kumble, explaining it, said the game had to move on. "Ricky and I had a discussion with Ranjan [Madugalle] and after that it was important that the game of cricket moves on," he said. "Cricket is larger than any individual. It is important we forget what happened in Sydney, it was just one of those bad moments, just an incident probably in the heat of the moment. And we decided as a team to move on and remove the charges against Brad Hogg. It's important that we moved on."
"I enjoyed a productive meeting which I had with Anil Kumble and Ranjan Madugalle in which we talked through all the issues thoroughly," Ponting said. "I am convinced that both the teams can move into the next game clearly understanding the parameters under which the game should be played and the teams acknowledge that the game must be played in its true spirit."
"It's a kind gesture, lovely gesture by the Indian team," Hogg said. "It's much appreciated by myself and the Australian cricket team. Hopefully the future contests between India and Australia are good viewing for the spectators and enjoyable for the teams."
Madugalle, who had earlier met the team managements separately, met the two captains at 5:15 pm. After the meeting, which lasted about half an hour, he was optimistic of the series carrying on in the right spirit.
"Over the last couple of days we've had very useful discussions with captains and managers of both teams resulting in meeting with Anil and Ricky today," Madugalle said after the meeting. "Both of them realise the importance of moving the game forward as opposed to reflecting on the events of the last week. And as captains they have the responsibility to uphold the game in the right spirit and play the game with mutual respect for one another. And I'm very confident that the next five days will see just that. So let's all look forward to a great Test match."
Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief administrative officer, said he hoped the decision would help get the focus back to the game. "The decision to drop the charge against Brad Hogg was taken in the larger interest of the game," Shetty told PTI. "India has always upheld the spirit of the game and the on-field issues should not be taken outside the field." On whether Australia would reciprocate and drop the charges against Harbhajan, Shetty said, "We really hope that Australia looks at it positively".
Mike Procter, the match referee at the SCG and the man in charge of the hearing today, called it a "magnificent" gesture. "I was tendered a letter from the [India] captain and the manager when the hearing started. So that's all behind us now and we can get on with the cricket, which is great news. A wonderful gesture by India showing sportsmanship they possess and the way they play their game."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo