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January 31, 2008
Ricky Ponting says some of the Australia players are disappointed that Harbhajan Singh's penalty over the incident with Andrew Symonds in the Sydney Test was downgraded to 50% of his match fee. However, Ponting believes it is time for Australia and India to move past the racism saga.
Justice John Hansen said in his judgement that database and human errors meant a previous offence - Harbhajan was fined 75% of his match fee and give a one-Test suspended sentence in 2001 - was not revealed to the assisting counsel at the time of sentencing. Ponting said the appeal, which was heard on Tuesday, provided the players with closure but it had not been handled as well as possible.
"The judge has made it pretty clear today that even he was a bit disappointed with the severity, or non-severity, of his findings, basically because he wasn't handed some pretty vital and important information," Ponting said. "There's no doubt that there'd be a few players in the Australian dressing room that would be a little bit disappointed with the outcome as well, knowing what we now know.
"I'm sure that Cricket Australia will get to the bottom of that. It's not up to me or up to the players. The case is closed, it can't ever be reopened. Cricket Australia will take it up with the appropriate people and let's hope that sort of stuff doesn't slip through the net again."
Ponting's comments were similar to those that came earlier in the day from Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland, who said he was disappointed Hansen was not given all the facts. "The judge's decision is final, we accept that, there was an unfortunate error in circumstances that led to him not having all the facts in front of him at that time, but that's gone," Sutherland said.
Harbhajan was accused of calling Symonds a "monkey" - Symonds had been subjected to monkey chants from spectators during Australia's ODI tour of India in October - but Hansen said Symonds could not be certain if Harbhajan had used the word. Hansen also criticised Symonds' part in the verbal exchange and Ponting hoped the case did not affect Symonds' reputation.
"Any sort of character assassination on Andrew Symonds would be completely unfair," Ponting said. "He's someone who doesn't want this stuff happening, it's the second time with what he had to go through in India as well, and it's the last thing in the world he wants."
However, Sutherland said Cricket Australia would discuss the judgement with Symonds and the rest of his team-mates. "No doubt with Andrew, as there with many other people, some things for him to reflect on," Sutherland said. "We will take the opportunity to talk at the right time to Andrew and other players and the players as a group about some of the circumstances and some of the things that are reported in the judgement."
Ponting and Sutherland were speaking in Melbourne ahead of Friday's Twenty20 international between Australia and India, and Ponting said he was looking forward to again focusing on the cricket instead of off-field issues. "It has taken a toll on [Symonds] and it's taken a toll on me over the last few weeks," Ponting said.
"We're dealing with stuff in the middle of games that we don't want to be talking about or thinking about. It's consumed us all for enough time. It's been on my mind for four weeks, really, from the moment it happened I've been thinking about all this stuff."
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge