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January 8, 2008
India have had a win in their battle over the umpiring in Sydney, with Steve Bucknor sacked from officiating in next week's Perth Test and replaced by Billy Bowden. The BCCI later confirmed that they will continue the tour as planned after appealing Harbhajan Singh's three-Test suspension although Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, conceded the appeal might not be heard before Perth. If the matter is not resolved by then India can pick Harbhajan at the WACA.
"What we've seen over the last week is a lot of criticism of umpiring decisions, a lot of ill feeling," Speed said at the MCG. "It's not unlike the situation the cricket world faced at The Oval in 2006. What we need to do is to alleviate some of the tension that is focused on this match and one way of doing that is to bring in a new umpiring team."
Speed clarified, though, that this will not be the end of the road for Bucknor as an international umpire. "I expect that Steve will continue as an ICC Elite Panel umpire. He is coming to the end of his career. What we are seeking to do is take some tension out of the situation. Steve accepts that in the interests of the game and this Test match it is better that another umpire substitute for him ... where the presence of one umpire becomes an issue that causes further aggravation we need to be sufficiently flexible."
Bucknor, meanwhile, remained in his Sydney hotel, waiting for the ICC to arrange a flight home for him while refusing to take any calls.
Ratnakar Shetty, the chief administrative officer of the BCCI, said the board was satisfied with the ICC's decision. "We had expected this and as far as processes go this is a satisfactory decision," Shetty said. "So much happened during the Test and hence we filed an appeal complaining against umpire Bucknor."
Neither of the on-field officials from Sydney will stand in Perth, with Mark Benson originally scheduled to be replaced by Asad Rauf, an appointment that remains. The ICC's chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle will fly to Australia to act as a mediator between Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting in an effort to restore the relationship between the sides. Mike Procter will remain as the match referee and will hear the offensive-language case against Brad Hogg, which is likely to be held in Perth.
"His [Madugalle's] only function in the Test will be to work with both of the captains, in effect as a mediator or a facilitator to make sure that the ill feeling that has evolved between the teams dissipates," Speed said. "And that this Test and the following Test are played well and truly within the spirit of the game."
Harbhajan may be eligible to play in Perth after Speed indicated the appeal process might not be resolved quickly. "An appointment of a very senior judge will be made in the next 24 hours," Speed said, "but I'm not able to announce that at this stage."
He said the appeal would include re-telling of the evidence that Procter heard at the SCG on Sunday night. "That involves some ten players and officials," he said. "Some of them are in Canberra, some of them have gone home. They'll be gathering in Perth ahead of the Test some time next week. I simply don't know whether it will be able to happen before that Test."
Speed not only felt the remaining two Tests would occur, but was confident the tour game in Canberra, which is due to start on Thursday, would be completed. "Compensation if those Tests were not to be played is a matter of contract between Cricket Australia and the Indian board," he said. "It would be a fairly complicated contractual dispute if that were to happen, but I don't believe it will happen."
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