January 9, 2008

Questions from Sydney

The SCG saga has thrown up all sorts of thorny questions - to do with the removal of umpires and the way hearings are conducted, among other things - with no easy answers in sight
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The idea of accepting a fielder's word over close catches must be buried forever © Getty Images

That the Sydney Test will forever be a blot on cricket history is a pity, for it could have been the best advertisement for Test cricket in recent times. Certainly, it showcased some of the great qualities of the five-day game. Fluctuating fortunes, magnificent individual performances from players of varying styles, and a cracking finish. A thrilling, last-minute draw, one of the unique beauties of Test cricket, would have been the most appropriate result. Yet the game ended up holding a mirror up to the ugly side of cricket. The pain of this dreadful week will endure.

It will be remembered as a match that brought out the worst: the umpiring was horrendous, the reputation of the Australian cricketers has taken a beating, the Indian team have brought on themselves the tag of sore losers, and in India we have seen an outpouring of ugly nationalism. Fears about this affair leading to a split in world cricket may be far-fetched, but the credibility of the game has taken a knock, and the rest of the series will only be about damage control.

The ICC has begun the process by removing Steve Bucknor, the umpire whose head the Indian board had demanded, from the Perth Test. But if this has helped achieve an immediate objective, the continuation of the series, it has raised uncomfortable questions that must be addressed, if not tomorrow then the day after.

There are two ways of looking at the removal. It can be seen as a capitulation by the ICC to some serious arm-twisting from its most powerful constituent. All the member countries may not have India's financial muscle and clout at the table, but that will not stop other teams similarly aggrieved by umpiring decisions to ask for change. Umpires are already a small community, and if every teams discovers its own bugbear, soon there might be nowhere to look.

However the ICC seeks to cloak its action - Malcolm Speed, the embattled chief executive, tried to present it as a decision taken in an extraordinary situation, in the best interests of the game - it will find it impossible to shake off the perception that it had been bullied into a corner by a board that controls the game's purse strings.

The other view is that this was the only way forward and that an incompetent official had to be moved out of the way for the game to continue: there was no way that the Test could be played under the supervision of an umpire in whom a team had no trust. Umpires, like everyone else, must held accountable for poor performance. To overlook the case against Bucknor, who has been a poor umpire for a while now, would have been a sign of blind inflexibility.

Human error is acceptable, and in fact Mark Benson, Bucknor's colleague, made more mistakes. But in Bucknor's case, the human errors were compounded by pig-headedness. His refusal to call for the third umpire's intervention in a stumping appeal marked the lowest point of all the umpiring gaffes in the match. It was the third reprieve for Andrew Symonds - though it mattered the least, for it came towards the end of his innings - and for most observers it sealed the case against Bucknor.

 
 
We can spend an eternity arguing over whether calling someone a monkey constitutes a racial taunt; about cultural differences; about monkeys being revered in India. Often words are not offensive by themselves; it is the manner, the circumstances, and the context in which they are used that make them so
 

That said, Bucknor's removal is perhaps the right decision, but one taken in the wrong circumstances. He has been a better umpire than most Indians would give him credit for, but his best years are behind him. He shouldn't have been standing in the series in the first place, and if the ICC has the best interests of game at heart, he should never stand in a Test again.

The ICC now have a problem with their elite panel, with Darrell Hair already out and Bucknor's future uncertain. Not only do they need to fill the vacancies, but given the increasingly bloated cricket calendar and the ever-increasing pressures of an umpire's job, they need to expand the panel. That will not be easy, because the base isn't growing. The BCCI might cry itself hoarse over the standard of the umpiring in the series, but they must confront the reality that the standard of umpiring at the national level in India is appalling. Umpiring has always been a lonely job and it has just got lonelier.

But, as Speed pointed out, the easy part has been dealt with. The more explosive, and far more complex aspect awaits resolution. India is aflame about one of their players being charged with racial abuse.

It is entirely possible that he was baited and fell into the trap. Australians have turned the practice of getting under the skin of opposing teams into a well-oiled craft, and they target their victims carefully. Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid are unlikely to ever be targeted. Harbhajan Singh, however, is obvious prey.

Having said that, Harbhajan deserves his punishment if it can be proved that he threw the "monkey" barb. We can spend an eternity arguing over whether calling someone a monkey constitutes a racial taunt; about cultural differences; about monkeys being revered in India. Often words are not offensive by themselves; it is the manner, the circumstances, and the context in which they are used that make them so. After all that went on during Australia's tour of India late last year, Harbhajan should have known better.



An image to keep: if anything must be taken from the Test, let it be the memories of the warmth of the Sydney crowd © Getty Images

But for justice to be done, it must be seen to be done. What a coincidence that Mike Procter should find himself in the middle of another inferno. At The Oval in 2006, he was accused of dubious inaction while a Test went down the gutter. Now it is up to his employers to ensure that he is not seen as one-eyed. For that, they must place the evidence he acted on to pronounce Harbhajan guilty in the public domain. It is not enough for Procter to claim that his judgment is fair and balanced and that he hasn't based it on one man's word over another's. From the information available, it seems that umpires didn't hear the abuse, and nor was it picked up by the microphones. A perception is gaining ground that Procter took the word of a few of the complainants over that of the accused. For cricket's sake, let's hope that's not the case. And if there is more damning evidence, the world has the right to see it. Otherwise, it will seem like kangaroo-court justice. Cricket deserves better.

One more lesson from Sydney is that the idea of taking the fielder's word for close catches must be buried forever. There was a reason why no other international captain accepted Ricky Ponting's proposal earlier. Selective honesty is unworkable. Cricketers can't be expected to stretch the bounds of gamesmanship in all areas save one. Following Michael Clarke's disputed catch to dismiss Sourav Ganguly, attention was not only drawn to Clarke's decision to linger at the wicket after thick-edging a ball to first slip earlier in the Test, but to his claiming a floored catch in the final match of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy in Hobart last month. Television pictures of Ponting - who had owned up to not cleanly taking a catch against Rahul Dravid in the first innings - appealing after grassing the ball while taking a diving catch in the second innings didn't look flattering either. Even if Ponting were to be given the benefit of doubt - that he didn't realise the catch hadn't been completed when the ball hit the ground - it seals the case. The worst case in such instances is that this is a practice that can be manipulated; the best-case scenario is that even the fielder cannot be trusted to know.

The saddest thing about the past few days is that the most cherished aspects of the game have been pushed to the margin. Even though a pretence of civility may be maintained going forward, it is unlikely that the ill-feeling between the teams will disappear anytime soon. If the Indians wished to take something from the Sydney Test, it would be the genuine and spontaneous ovation granted to Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman by the crowd. The Test may have placed a question mark over the sense of fair play of the Australian team, but it shouldn't obscure the fact that barring a few rogues, Australian cricket lovers are among the most knowledgeable, fair-minded and sporting. To them the teams owe the courtesy of a fair contest in what remains of the series.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • amin.bintory on January 11, 2008, 12:13 GMT

    It was utter sadness watching the proceedings of the match. From what promised to be great test, it went down to be one of the worst. Bucknor and Benson did India in. That's goes beyond a shadow of doubt. Ponting and his men need to learn self-preservance and to act with dignity instead of pulling off cheap tactics which don't behold champion men. Playing with sportsmanship above all is the need of the hour. India can only build on from here. There is no turning back. Whether Harbhajan plays or not, India need to keep their batting clicking under all circumstances if they are to salvage anything of the remainder of the series. Instead of being sore losers they need to up their tempo and deliver. The big five have been consistent so far. The others need to pick up as well.

    Whether umpires spoil the party at the Perth test or not, both the teams have the job of doing a lot of damage control now. If not for their own pride and reputation, then at least for the game itself.

  • roubs on January 11, 2008, 6:44 GMT

    this is one of the finest and unbiased article to have come out after the recent turmoil in cricket one of the worst actually.but i m bit taken off by some comments posted by one of the guys saying india is acting childishly by threatening to pull out of the series .if standing in honour of your country is childish then india should be proud of on high horse as well.if match referee being the parent figure in cricket and players his children he should take care of them equally and not take one word over another .in that regards he is the real racist.

  • niro9019 on January 11, 2008, 5:44 GMT

    The Indian stance of pulling out of the tour unless their player is cleared smacks of an arrogance that is neither helping Indian cricket nor cricket in general. It would be interesting to see what ICC stands for. " Indian Cricket Council" ?

  • TomB on January 11, 2008, 4:00 GMT

    Given the fact that it now seems that Tendulkar's evidence amounts support of a teammate in a tough situation; commendable, even if mistaken (though if the details of the text message to the BCCI are accurate, some responsibility for inflaming the situation must be his), I would suggest that there is 0.5% percent chance that the Aussies invented the charge against Harbhajan (possible, but extremely unlikely). There is a similarly small chance that Harbhajan used the term, and then denied the charge with a full understanding of the furore that would be created. I reckon that there's also about 5% chance that this is a result of a genuine misunderstanding. That leaves 94% chance that Harbhajan made the comment, and then denied it to the umpires when he realized he might be in trouble, hoping the issue just disappear. The speed with which the situation escalated then prevented him from correcting this without extreme consequences, not only to himself, but to his teammates and country.

  • Miners on January 11, 2008, 2:07 GMT

    Firstly I would like to congratulate Sambit Bal for the most accurate impartial article I have read relating to this issue. I agree with every point you have raised, it is amazing that this is the first article (including those in Australia) that is written using fact not just hype. I'm an Australian supporter, and while I don't agree with everything that they do I am in awe on how dominant their team actually currently is. I for one thought that the Sydney test match was one of the best contests I have seen in a long time. India looked very impressive early on in the game and looked like they would take the game until the umpiring mistakes. However, from this point I think the Indian team should have shown better resolve and said to themselves yes decisions are going against us but we can still win if we continue to play like we are. But unfortunately they let the bad decisions affect them and I think threw the game away in the end (come on 3 wickets off a Michael Clarke over?)

  • rnsmith on January 11, 2008, 1:40 GMT

    Sambit's description of the controversial Ricky Ponting isn't in my opinion strictly accurate. It hinges on an ambiguous clause about "when a fielder obtains complete control both over the ball and over his own movement". Its clear to me that the ball stayed in his hand (he had complete control over the ball), but since he was flying through the air, he didn't have complete control over his own movement until he landed. I tend to think it was not a fair catch, just as catching a ball and running over a boundary line with the momentum is 6 runs. It does seem open to interpretation as to what constitutes having complete control over own movement, and Laws of Cricket dictates that its the umpires who do so, not players, cricket commentators, or Boards of Control. Its a different and more complicated question of fact being adjudicated here than whether a ball touched the ground.

  • TomB on January 11, 2008, 1:35 GMT

    On the Bucknor issue, he may have deserved removal, but India broke the ICC touring conditions by demanding this outcome. Similarly, in the Harbhajan debacle, the BCCI are threatening to break ICC rules if they don't get their way. Support of their player is expected and commendable, but they must allow the impartial process to find the truth. Their current behavior seems to suggest they don't want the truth, just a positive result for Harbhajan, perhaps indicative that they expect he is guilty? The shifting position of the Indians on some of the evidence may support this; initially the meeting between Symonds and Harbhajan last year was denied, now Symonds is accused of breaking a pact made at the meeting!?! The BCCI have already shown an disingenuous attitude to racism with denials and then excuses for the Monkey chants in the one day series. Their righteous affront at being accused by Aussies may have reasonable historical basis, but their response will only perpetuate the evil.

  • MPKS on January 11, 2008, 1:34 GMT

    Umpire Bucknor's errors have cost India the 2nd test. Whether Symonds should have walked or not is up to the individual. By and large Australians have established their supremacy over India in batting, bowling and fielding. India failed to take advantage of its higher 1st innings score inasmuch as they were trying to contain Australian scoring rather than getting them out. Here lies the difference between the two captains.

    Inda's bowling strength has been below par and Anil Kumble's reluctance to introduce a change of bowler as a diversionary measure could be viewd as selfishness rather than a great tactic.

    All things said and done, India's openers should adopt a more aggressive attitude from the very start. But it is apparent that every batsman tries to stay at the crease as long as he coud without any thought of runs.

    The Australians have their faults but the Indians should attempt to lift their performance regardless, in order to acquit themselves creditably.

  • JH_From_Australia on January 10, 2008, 23:36 GMT

    CAPTAIN'S RESPONSIBILITY. Article by SAMBIT BAL titled "Questions From Sydney" posted Jan 9th 2008 pretty much sums up the issues facing cricket, the ICC and International sport in general today. And add to that the old dilema "You can't make everyone happy" for a healthy dose of perspective too. Opposing team Captains have the "power" to manage alot of issues and mosty certainly ones on the playing field. They should do so. And act responsibly. Especially when involving countries where running into the streets burning things and attacking players property is common place and seemingly easily envoked. Captains must take responsibility for their team when on the playing field. Should incidents or any controversy occur they must make all efforts to FIX things BEFORE they escalate and leave the playing field. Commentators too should stick to commenting on the PLAY and the GAME, they are not talk back radio.

  • ramesh5 on January 10, 2008, 13:15 GMT

    The article is one of the most balanced one I have ever read on a controversial match. Please be advised, I seldom write on cricket matters since I do not believe any game is worth the kind of emotions from all sides. There have been lot of partial comments even by past Cricketers of Australia on the Umpiring "errors" in the Sydney match. I have seen Vishwanath calling back Bob Taylor in a test match in Bombay in 1980 when he was given out wrongly by an Indian Umpire. Botham played a great Innings in a tight situation after an early collapse at 5/55 with Kapil and Ghavri playing havoc on a helpful Wankhede wicket. India lost the test due to Brilliance of Botham. Nobody complained of Vishwanath's generosity as an opposing Captain. He was remembered for the display of sportsmanship and it still remains in my memory. What are these people talking when they talk of Australia playing tough but fair. By taking advantage of umpiring errors, Aussies have ruined a well fought contest

  • amin.bintory on January 11, 2008, 12:13 GMT

    It was utter sadness watching the proceedings of the match. From what promised to be great test, it went down to be one of the worst. Bucknor and Benson did India in. That's goes beyond a shadow of doubt. Ponting and his men need to learn self-preservance and to act with dignity instead of pulling off cheap tactics which don't behold champion men. Playing with sportsmanship above all is the need of the hour. India can only build on from here. There is no turning back. Whether Harbhajan plays or not, India need to keep their batting clicking under all circumstances if they are to salvage anything of the remainder of the series. Instead of being sore losers they need to up their tempo and deliver. The big five have been consistent so far. The others need to pick up as well.

    Whether umpires spoil the party at the Perth test or not, both the teams have the job of doing a lot of damage control now. If not for their own pride and reputation, then at least for the game itself.

  • roubs on January 11, 2008, 6:44 GMT

    this is one of the finest and unbiased article to have come out after the recent turmoil in cricket one of the worst actually.but i m bit taken off by some comments posted by one of the guys saying india is acting childishly by threatening to pull out of the series .if standing in honour of your country is childish then india should be proud of on high horse as well.if match referee being the parent figure in cricket and players his children he should take care of them equally and not take one word over another .in that regards he is the real racist.

  • niro9019 on January 11, 2008, 5:44 GMT

    The Indian stance of pulling out of the tour unless their player is cleared smacks of an arrogance that is neither helping Indian cricket nor cricket in general. It would be interesting to see what ICC stands for. " Indian Cricket Council" ?

  • TomB on January 11, 2008, 4:00 GMT

    Given the fact that it now seems that Tendulkar's evidence amounts support of a teammate in a tough situation; commendable, even if mistaken (though if the details of the text message to the BCCI are accurate, some responsibility for inflaming the situation must be his), I would suggest that there is 0.5% percent chance that the Aussies invented the charge against Harbhajan (possible, but extremely unlikely). There is a similarly small chance that Harbhajan used the term, and then denied the charge with a full understanding of the furore that would be created. I reckon that there's also about 5% chance that this is a result of a genuine misunderstanding. That leaves 94% chance that Harbhajan made the comment, and then denied it to the umpires when he realized he might be in trouble, hoping the issue just disappear. The speed with which the situation escalated then prevented him from correcting this without extreme consequences, not only to himself, but to his teammates and country.

  • Miners on January 11, 2008, 2:07 GMT

    Firstly I would like to congratulate Sambit Bal for the most accurate impartial article I have read relating to this issue. I agree with every point you have raised, it is amazing that this is the first article (including those in Australia) that is written using fact not just hype. I'm an Australian supporter, and while I don't agree with everything that they do I am in awe on how dominant their team actually currently is. I for one thought that the Sydney test match was one of the best contests I have seen in a long time. India looked very impressive early on in the game and looked like they would take the game until the umpiring mistakes. However, from this point I think the Indian team should have shown better resolve and said to themselves yes decisions are going against us but we can still win if we continue to play like we are. But unfortunately they let the bad decisions affect them and I think threw the game away in the end (come on 3 wickets off a Michael Clarke over?)

  • rnsmith on January 11, 2008, 1:40 GMT

    Sambit's description of the controversial Ricky Ponting isn't in my opinion strictly accurate. It hinges on an ambiguous clause about "when a fielder obtains complete control both over the ball and over his own movement". Its clear to me that the ball stayed in his hand (he had complete control over the ball), but since he was flying through the air, he didn't have complete control over his own movement until he landed. I tend to think it was not a fair catch, just as catching a ball and running over a boundary line with the momentum is 6 runs. It does seem open to interpretation as to what constitutes having complete control over own movement, and Laws of Cricket dictates that its the umpires who do so, not players, cricket commentators, or Boards of Control. Its a different and more complicated question of fact being adjudicated here than whether a ball touched the ground.

  • TomB on January 11, 2008, 1:35 GMT

    On the Bucknor issue, he may have deserved removal, but India broke the ICC touring conditions by demanding this outcome. Similarly, in the Harbhajan debacle, the BCCI are threatening to break ICC rules if they don't get their way. Support of their player is expected and commendable, but they must allow the impartial process to find the truth. Their current behavior seems to suggest they don't want the truth, just a positive result for Harbhajan, perhaps indicative that they expect he is guilty? The shifting position of the Indians on some of the evidence may support this; initially the meeting between Symonds and Harbhajan last year was denied, now Symonds is accused of breaking a pact made at the meeting!?! The BCCI have already shown an disingenuous attitude to racism with denials and then excuses for the Monkey chants in the one day series. Their righteous affront at being accused by Aussies may have reasonable historical basis, but their response will only perpetuate the evil.

  • MPKS on January 11, 2008, 1:34 GMT

    Umpire Bucknor's errors have cost India the 2nd test. Whether Symonds should have walked or not is up to the individual. By and large Australians have established their supremacy over India in batting, bowling and fielding. India failed to take advantage of its higher 1st innings score inasmuch as they were trying to contain Australian scoring rather than getting them out. Here lies the difference between the two captains.

    Inda's bowling strength has been below par and Anil Kumble's reluctance to introduce a change of bowler as a diversionary measure could be viewd as selfishness rather than a great tactic.

    All things said and done, India's openers should adopt a more aggressive attitude from the very start. But it is apparent that every batsman tries to stay at the crease as long as he coud without any thought of runs.

    The Australians have their faults but the Indians should attempt to lift their performance regardless, in order to acquit themselves creditably.

  • JH_From_Australia on January 10, 2008, 23:36 GMT

    CAPTAIN'S RESPONSIBILITY. Article by SAMBIT BAL titled "Questions From Sydney" posted Jan 9th 2008 pretty much sums up the issues facing cricket, the ICC and International sport in general today. And add to that the old dilema "You can't make everyone happy" for a healthy dose of perspective too. Opposing team Captains have the "power" to manage alot of issues and mosty certainly ones on the playing field. They should do so. And act responsibly. Especially when involving countries where running into the streets burning things and attacking players property is common place and seemingly easily envoked. Captains must take responsibility for their team when on the playing field. Should incidents or any controversy occur they must make all efforts to FIX things BEFORE they escalate and leave the playing field. Commentators too should stick to commenting on the PLAY and the GAME, they are not talk back radio.

  • ramesh5 on January 10, 2008, 13:15 GMT

    The article is one of the most balanced one I have ever read on a controversial match. Please be advised, I seldom write on cricket matters since I do not believe any game is worth the kind of emotions from all sides. There have been lot of partial comments even by past Cricketers of Australia on the Umpiring "errors" in the Sydney match. I have seen Vishwanath calling back Bob Taylor in a test match in Bombay in 1980 when he was given out wrongly by an Indian Umpire. Botham played a great Innings in a tight situation after an early collapse at 5/55 with Kapil and Ghavri playing havoc on a helpful Wankhede wicket. India lost the test due to Brilliance of Botham. Nobody complained of Vishwanath's generosity as an opposing Captain. He was remembered for the display of sportsmanship and it still remains in my memory. What are these people talking when they talk of Australia playing tough but fair. By taking advantage of umpiring errors, Aussies have ruined a well fought contest

  • decky on January 10, 2008, 12:54 GMT

    You people have to be joking ricky ponting is one of the best players and captains australia has ever had ask yourselfs one question when two teams play each other what do they play for? the answer will always be TO WIN ive read most of the posts on this site and im finding more and more people attacking ponting for doing his job grow up all of you india lost get over it i agree the umpiring was atrocious but it happens dont hold ricky resposible for doing his job bravo ricky ponting and australia for win no 16 i hope india isnt to sore and take their bat and ball and go home crying so we can have a good hard test in perth i know i am looking forward to it

  • juzmuz on January 10, 2008, 9:57 GMT

    Without knowing what evidence was taken to convict Harbhajan of racist comments - for the second time - it may appear that the word of the Australians has been taken over the word of the Indians. None of us are privy to that answer as yet, but in making my own assessment, I've asked myself "is it likely that the Australians would make up such a story, and why would they do so?". I also asked myself " is it likely that, after the previous episode in India, would Harbhajan want to deny making such a comment?". After asking those questions, I'd have to say that I don't believe the Aussies are smart enough to set up such a scenario to have Harbhajan banned; and I do believe Harbhajan is smart enough to know that he would be in serious trouble if he was found quilty. I might be very wrong, but until proven otherwise, I'll stick with this logic.

  • juzmuz on January 10, 2008, 9:39 GMT

    I am dumbfounded at the range of reactions to what was an amazing test, and all players should be congratulated for a match that kept high public interest for the full 5 days. Forgetting the umpiring, India should never have lost those last 3 wickets to lose the test. India got the worst of the umpiring - but by no means all of the bad decisions. But condemnation of - and veiled threats towards - the umps by Indian officials while a test match is in progress is not on and would have to constitute bringing the game into disrepute - far more so than the perceived arrogance of a Brett Lee reaction to taking a wicket, or the Aussie team celebrating a highly unlikely victory. Not accepting the umpires decision and threatening to pull out of a series because a player is found guilty of a racist comment, is also bringing the game into disrepute. It's time India got off its high horse, stopped their bullying threats and started to earn their right to celebrate where it counts - on the field.

  • Slip51 on January 10, 2008, 9:29 GMT

    May I soundly second the thoughts of many earlier postings and congratulate Sambit Bal on, by far, the most balanced report on this whole sorry saga. Whilst I agree the performance of Bucknor almost certainly warranted his replacement I have grave reservations about the resultant perception. Regarding the Ponting "catch" both Richie Benaud and Darrell Hair have publicly supported my own view that it was legitimate because he had controlled the ball before it was grounded. Despite being acknowledged world wide as having an superlative knowledge of the rules of cricket I am aware that as Australians they may be seen to be biased, to that end may I suggest you, Sambit, illicit the views of past great umpires such as Bird, Sheppard or Venkat (apologies cannot remember the full spelling) if they are still available.

  • Bijoos on January 10, 2008, 8:51 GMT

    Just change the laws as in TENNIS. If teams can challenge the decision of field umpires it will not happen again. Give each teams 3challenges even batting or fielding. If umpire give "OUT" or "NOT OUT" they can challenge. Then they can refer to the Match referee(Let them do something), If the teams challenge was RIGHT keep the exact number of challenges remain, if they gone WRONG minus one from the number of challenges they have. It will give some credibility for the matches and the viewers. Otherwise the Sydney test will repeat.

  • SAPVEN on January 10, 2008, 8:39 GMT

    Excellent and balanced piece by Sambit Bal. However Hash1234's suggestions seem to be the solution, though maybe a little impractical.The main issues here:

    1. Not to let umpiring errors creep in. How..??simple: Empower the third umpire to overrule any mistake on the field(and Umpiring egos be damned).This would also solve the problem of the so called "Elite panel" !!! 2. To nip in the bud any interchange between players. for socialising there is always the evenings after the play.(Why not bring back the stump mikes ??) 3. Make teh captains responsible for then actions of the players(any fines to players to be duplicated with fine on Captain) The main thing is for the ICC to use these issues to frame a near foolproof set of rules so that we do not face a similar situation again Before the cricketing faternity splits down the middle.

  • pyramix on January 10, 2008, 8:37 GMT

    Why do you claim Benson made more mistakes than Bucknor? I didn't find that to be true from what I saw. Plus, Benson erred in favour of India at least once. Bucknor committed huge errors (Symonds caught behind was much more obvious than Ponting caught behind in the first innings), all of which hurt India. India was right to demand his removal for they have filed many complaints against him, and nothing has ever been done. There's a long list of mistakes he has made that hurt India badly, but I can't think of one where he has given the Indian team a similarly huge reprieve. I want to believe Bucknor is unbiased, but the contrary to the evidence has been piling up for some time now. All my thoughts are here: http://yorker.wordpress.com

  • Jameson on January 10, 2008, 8:22 GMT

    An excellent article: it says it all. I'm sorry to see Bucknor go -he has been a great servant to the game - but it is inevitable as his decisions distorted the result of the match (though Benson's performance was worse). The present Australian team has pushed "playing hard but fair" to the very limit and Symonds is one of the most aggressive exponents of this approach. In addition, Ponting and Clarke have brought their own integrity as "fair" players into question. In fact, I think this approach eventually intimidates even the most professional of umpires and is the reason why Australia benefits from so many of the 50/50 decisions. Bob Woolmer commented on this when Pakistan toured Australia. However, if Harbajan has actually aimed the word "monkey" at a mixed-race player, he has been extremely foolish. If it is true, how can it go unpunished? I also worry about the effect of all this on younger players - what message is being sent to them?

  • Viren.Dholakia on January 10, 2008, 8:02 GMT

    Great perspective indicated in the article and not a biased one in favour of India. From the perspective of the match there were no comments from India/BCCI over the continuation of the tour until the hearing on Harbhajan's case came out against India. This hearing was definitely not acceptable as there were no evidence of the allegations and the judgement cannot be reached at just on the basis of the players whose credibility was very much evident during the match. From ICC's perspective they have come out with proper steps to calm down the situation, which could have impacted international relations just not between 2 nations but could have divided the world into 2. It remains to see how ICC handles the situation further and reinstate the image of cricket. To certain extent ICC is to be blamed to have such a situation. It required them to control Aussies on field behaviour since long which ICC dint, which has put ICC to face such a situation.

  • Rik_W on January 10, 2008, 7:51 GMT

    Fairgo, the reason the dismissal of Ponting that Harbhajan celebrated is that he didn't do it at the end of the match when the expectation is that you shake the opposing teams hand. Simple gesture, but it speaks volumes.

    The problem with the ban is that like the article says, there doesn't seem to be any damning evidence against Harbhajan apart from personal accounts... and after what I saw during the test I don't see a reason why one party should be be believed over the other.

    Lehmann deserved the ban regardless of he's character, anyone who is proven to be making racist remarks needs to be punished. It is not always a case of preference to one race over the other. McGrath called Jayasuriya a "black monkey" and I never heard about any repurcussions for that.

    Excellent article Sambit.

  • MilindaJ on January 10, 2008, 7:30 GMT

    This issue has come up because of one individual. I respect and love to watch the Australian team playing cricket. But it is one individual who is arrogant tries to make his team otherwise. He is trying too much to keep Australia in winning path under his captaincy. That is individualism. He doesnt mind how he does it. He puts lots and lots of pressure on umpires. He tries to control the game instead of being controlled by umpires or match refree. Australian team do not have to do this. They are a good side. It is unfortunate that fascinating team is captained by such arrogant captain.

  • Ohyouforgot on January 10, 2008, 7:24 GMT

    Another matter the ICC needs to sharpen their monitoring on is the claiming of 'bump' catches. Any player (Ponting and Clarke in Sydney) found guilty should be dealt with along the lines of Rashid Latif a couple of years ago. Cheating is not acceptable and cannot form part of 'our way of playing hard and fair (sic)'

  • Sachingreat on January 10, 2008, 6:59 GMT

    History says that australian players hav always been very dominating and that they sledge at their opponents. No doubt they play good cricket and are tough opponents, but there is something called sportsmanship spirit. In good old days, that was best seen, but it is a sorry situation for ricky and his boys that they displayed in sydney test. Appealing when it the ball has been grounded (clark, pointing, not walking in spite of having a thick edge (Clark, Pointing, Symonds ...). Many teams that play cricket over appeal or dont walk, but when you talk of high standards in australian cricket, you should'nt b doing all that. Don't blame Indian media for creating a fuss, they have been quiet for long duration.

  • NIEL on January 10, 2008, 6:57 GMT

    A lovely article, after so many days of articles where, only blaming each other's point of view was the main objective. Each point mentioned in this article is balanced enough and answers everyone, each and every cricket fan will be happy with this point of view. Cricket has to move ahead.... So, lets wish Cricket all the best....

  • Houley on January 10, 2008, 6:53 GMT

    I can agree that making a comment such as "monkey" is a racist and unacceptable remark. However in this case there seems to be no proof in this case that Harbijan actually made the comment. He has strenuously denied making the comment, the umpires did not hear it, and Tendulker also did not hear it. Thus it seems that he is being tried in the eyes of the media based on a he said basis. This would not even get to a court of law in a defimation situation. It seems that this is a situation that could have been handeled by the match referee and resolved quickly. In terms of replacing Bucknor then this seems logical to me in that he has consistantly shown over the past year that his once great standards and umpiring powers have waned. Australia are a great team, but it would seem that they should be thankful for a victory based on umpiring incompetence and have been humble. Why else would a batsman wait after hitting the cover off it to 1st slip!

  • Madnut on January 10, 2008, 6:45 GMT

    I simply would like to know the last time Aussies were at the receiving end of bad umpiring (worse off compared to their oponents in the same match). Think must be ages ago. As far as I can remember, they always got a better deal from the umpires. One critical bad decision can completely the change a match. No two words that Aussies are the best team at the moment. This is specially why the oponents can not afford to be at the receiving end of bad umpiring. Wonder whether the umpires are scared of the Aussies!

  • OscartheGrouch on January 10, 2008, 6:31 GMT

    Sambit - seems as if nobody else in the world has done this, or if they have I have missed it but while the umpiring was dreadful, there is some validity to the view that it didn't make that much difference. I did the maths of taking away every run made by every player following an incorrect 'not out' decision (from the video evidence) and it left the Indians with a first-innings lead of about 30 and the result at the end of the game as Australia ahead by 37 runs. Obviously you can't hypothesise as to what the result would have been of correcting incorrect 'out' decisions, but at least this maths shows that things were much more even than has often been suggested.

    As to the cultural adjustment of Australian perceptions of the monkey chant - ok, let's accept the Indian position that it is no insult to liken a person to a sacred animal. Will the Chairman of the BCCI please educate we Aussies by publicy (TV, please) calling his wife a 'fat cow'? - a well-fed sacred animal.

  • CRICKETTHINKER on January 10, 2008, 6:27 GMT

    This is in response to Conan's comments. How does Conan know Harbhajan used the word 'monkey'?. Australians will tend to believe Symonds. But we Indians will believe Harbhajan. Procter did not have video or audio evidence and believed the statements of two Aussie players but did not believe Sachin's statement. Why did Procter believe the Australians and not Sachin? The verdict was totally wrong. India has been playing cricket for the last 70 years. Never has it asked for an umpire to be changed. Bucknor made six wrong decisions (all against India) out of a total of 10 wrong decisions. Ten wrong decisions in one match represent ten wickets or one whole innings. And one umpire making six wrong decisions all against one team is too much. BCCI would not have reacted if India had played badly and lost. India played magnificently and would have won if not for the umpiring. India rarely beats Australia in Australia - the umpires nipped a rare chance in the bud. That's why the acute distress.

  • Sharath-chandra on January 10, 2008, 5:56 GMT

    As the author says, players can not be encouraged to be selectively honest - You can stand your ground when you are out as a batsman and be honest about a catch that you claim to have taken cleanly. This is bound to fail considering the high stakes involved in all forms of cricket these days. Also, the ICC needs to have a policy of monitoring the performance of umpires and have a scoring system to promote / demote umpires to various leves of the game. It is agreed that to err is human, but, if an umpire's decisions are against a team in a game most of the times, then some actions need to be initiated immediately to ensure that the umpiring team is changed for the remaining part of the series, atleast. I know that this is nearly impossible with the gaps between matches in a series becoming narrower by the day due to commercial reasons, there may not be another way. If the umpiring can be so bad from umpires at the so called 'elite" panel, why can't we have a larger pool of umpires?

  • advaitin on January 10, 2008, 4:34 GMT

    Hi, If the Aussies feel that what they do to other teams on the field is just simple 'bantering' to show their gamesmanship,I would like to know from them the complete list of words and sentenses used, being used by them.This is for a genuine purpose of findinding out how much that will have an impact on other teams, if at all there is any.We may have to trust their words!!!! Advaitin

  • bkrish on January 10, 2008, 4:31 GMT

    One of the comments here suggests "Reduce appealing. LBW's should be made by bowler and wicket-keeper only - catches by the bowler and the catcher". I'd go further - why the requirement for appealing at all ? Isn't the umpire supposed to be in a position to decide whether the batsman is out or not irrespective of ? A limited number of appeals should be allowed only when a team thinks that the umpire has erred in his decision - in which case a third umpire can take a fresh look at the decision using whatever technology is available. Putting a maximum limit of unsuccessful appeals in an innings should make sure that there's no excessive use of such "appeals" by a team.

  • Kaye on January 10, 2008, 4:16 GMT

    Sambit - this is the best and most balanced article I have read on this matter. Congratulations. I will add that I feel the whole issue begins and ends with the leadership qualities of Ponting and Kumble. Both are excellent leaders in most aspects but both have failed to use their emotional intelligence and deal with the issues at hand. Hence they spiral out of control. People need to be able to save face, not be humiliated. Conciliation may have resulted in Singh admitting to the 'monkey' taunt and being very apologetic, thus avoiding the racial stigma ... now faced with the choice of the stigma naturally he will deny, deny, deny. Now the only outcome is for someone to be branded a liar as the appeal with either be upheld or dismissed. Both sides have disappointed me greatly for different reasons and many media reports and fan comments have incensed me!! At this point I would rather India A play Australia A and let's give the current guys a rest to think things through!

  • Conan on January 10, 2008, 3:37 GMT

    One cannot dispute that the umpiring was extremely poor, one cannot dispute that the Australians play a hard abrasive type of cricket. However sadly, Harbhajan used the word 'monkey' to racially demean Symonds. Harbhajan was previously asked not to use the term 'monkey' due to the derogatory and racial implications expressed by the foul behaviour of the a few in the Indian crowds in the previous one-day series. India with it's financial clout and population of over 1 billion people are in the process of bullying a small country (20 million people) to satisfy the anger of a an emotion charged humiliated public. One cannot see the game's umpires improving, when in the future umpires will be too scared to give an Indian out..... I hope the Indian team and public pull together over the next week and defeat Australia on the paddock. With over 1 billion people and untold cricketing resources, it will only add further embarrassment to th e Indian public if they do not win the last 2 tests.

  • jaztech on January 10, 2008, 3:37 GMT

    It is sad that this article by Sambit Bal is one of the very few to even hint at criticism of the Indian team. A procession of Australians have hopped on the bandwaggon of Tall Poppy bashing and the media coverage of the situation in India should be regarded by any self-aware nation as constituting a national disgrace. The criticism of the Australian team for doing what all other teams do (um, yes, not walking and appealing when they think the batter is out) is mindless. And now India have brought a racism charge against Hogg. Where's the outpouring of emotion? Where are the effigies? Where are the threats and dummy-spits of the Australian team? How can the self-righteous Kumble complain about the situation with Singh only to seek revenge by doing the same to Hogg? Why doesn't anyone write about this? The media bias, cricinfo included, is disgraceful in this instance as in the entire coverage of India-Australia incident.

  • Eddie_Barlow on January 10, 2008, 3:27 GMT

    So neither Ponting, the team nor their CEO Sutherland see anything wrong with their behaviour? Not even the former greats of Australian cricket can convince them they are in need of a change in attitude. What are we as cricket lovers meant to do? I for one will not accept arrogance and bad sportsmanship as part of the modern game, I'd rather watch tennis or golf.

  • fairgo on January 10, 2008, 3:26 GMT

    The reporting of the controversies of the Sydney test has been as biased as any I have experienced. Just one example will suffice - The media's nearly universal condemnation of the Aussie's team reaction to winning viz. that it was arrogant. Compare Harbajahn's reaction when he dismissed Ponting which was as arrogant as the Aussie's yet I cannot remember any comment from the media. My own feeling is that both were probably the result of normal human reactions to the successful outcome to a particular situation. But I also thought Harbajahn's was immature and possibly contained a hint of arrogance considering the no. of times he has dismissed Ponting. I believe,based on experience,a situation such as this has three sides your's, mine, and the actual truth which nobody seems to want address. The real answer lies in an objective assessment of the history and culture of the two teams involved not only of what happened in Sydney.

  • AgileEntrepreneur on January 10, 2008, 3:21 GMT

    I think the time has come to appoint a group of international "selectors" whose job it is to pick umpires. Umpires would be held accountable - i.e. picked or dropped based on performance in any given series or a match. The selectors should use every statistical tool available to them including error percentage, as well as consistency- how their errors affect different teams. Additionally, they should accept feedback from the teams officiated by each umpire and use it to also influence the ranking of an umpire. Finally, there has to be fitness criteria for umpires- they need to demonstrate a sufficiently high degree of fitness in vision, hearing, alertness, and tolerance to fatigue, heat/cold and stress.

    Someone in these forums had a great idea - appoint 6 umpires and each pair can officiate on-field in each session in a day, while the 4 off-field umpires can do the job of the "third" umpire.

  • ShankarKR on January 10, 2008, 3:09 GMT

    Indian Umpires are known for bad decisions always. Indian Team had won most of their matches against Aussies with the help of Indian umpires only. Just recall the matches played few years ago in which Harbhajan gained 31 wickets in a series. He got almost half of his wickets in form of LBW only. Most of the decisions were wrong. That time no media didnt comment on umpiring standards. When stevebucknor gave few wrong decisions , all most entire media in India is speaking about this. In fact most of the News papers in India carried this issue in Headlines. All News channels are broadcasting this news again and again.

    We all knew about Umpiring standards in India. Few years ago when Ajay Jadeja was playing in a match he edged one to the wicket keeper. As soon as the wicket keeper and bowler shouted for wicket umpire gave that one out. When Ajay Jadeja angrily looked at the umpire, umpire changed his posture from giving out and changed his pose as if he tried to comb his hair. We shou

  • sheffinho on January 10, 2008, 2:28 GMT

    There have been no winners in all this mess, resulting in the unfortunate situation where the Indian cricket authorities have felt the need to lean on the ICC with a list of demands, realising the fears of those who suspect that a cashed up India will become the off-field bully of world cricket. India were definitely disadvantaged by the umpiring in the second test, but, I'm sorry, an independent and strong ICC is more important than being seen to placate the demands of one country's cricket board.

  • david_b on January 10, 2008, 2:16 GMT

    Congrtaulations to the author, Sambit Bal, on perhaps the best article on this matter.

    I, for one, will be very relaxed to accept the views he expresses in future articles on differtn topics as being similarly balanced.

    well done, sir.

  • Jagger on January 10, 2008, 2:03 GMT

    Sambit, I'll explain it to you. Lehmann (one of the nicest fellows you'd ever want to meet) got rubbed out for 5 matches. Rashid "white c..." Latif (one of the ugliest players ever to set foot on a cricket field) got off scott free. Where is the justice in that?

    Australia has a winning culture - hard to achieve, harder to hang onto. India, like the rest of the world, want to kill it in any way they can. Australia can't win the popularity stakes while they continue wiping the floor with opposition teams, but we love our national cricket side and our captain Ricky Ponting, with all our heart. I am a very proud Australian. The only thing that will change this position is if we start losing. Not words. Now that you've had your taste of being labelled a racist you might understand that what is said on a cricket field (or dressing room for that matter) should remain there. Call me a white ghost as much as you like, I'm just going to bowl at you faster.

  • Hash1234 on January 10, 2008, 1:45 GMT

    Answers From Sydney

    Immediate 1. Remove Bucknor (done) 2. Modify the charge against Harbhajan to 'Ungentlemanly Conduct' or any phrase without the word 'Racial' - fine him $25,000 to be paid to a charity named by Andrew Symonds. 3. Allow two appeals per side to the third umpire per session against the umpires on the field. The third umpire only to change the decision if there is clear video/audio evidence to support it.

    Longer Term 4. Take sledging out of the game. There should be no commnication to batsmen from fielders other that the occasional 'Well played'. Umpires to monitor. 5. Reduce appealing. LBW's should be made by bowler and wicket-keeper only - catches by the bowler and the catcher.

    Impossible? 6. Encourage walking - if only to set a standard to the hundreds of yard/beech games that have neither umpires or technology.

  • michael.P on January 10, 2008, 1:43 GMT

    A nice article by Mr Bal - a more rational summary of events from an Indian perspective. I think the Australian team has been given a beating well and beyond their actual poor performance- to be fair. To their credit, they've kept quite (in this maelstrom) and Kumble has been very diplomatic in the wake of the extraordinary reaction to his initial disappointment (and other issues)~ showing more grace than most ex-players and commentators. Moving on to Perth: Sharma will do well there (he looks very good and his height and line will suit the Wacca). India need to reinstate Shewag (in place of Jaffa)- he is good against pace and bounce. Y Singh will fire at the Wacca if he is given another chance. I think the term "karma" originated in India? Why not quit this self-righteousness and thoughts of quitting the test series in indignation, and support the concept of a "Karmic" exhibition of model sportsmanship and good grace that the Indian team are using as the moral compass of their anger?

  • raoam on January 10, 2008, 1:39 GMT

    while the umpiring in the Sydney test was horrendous, Indian batting failure has caused much distress. A player of sachin calibre leaving a ball hitting the stumps and failure of VVS Laxman,Yuvi,and Dhoni are most worrying. Had we played the remaining overs really we would have taught a fitting lesson to the Aussies. Regarding, symonds continuing after knowing that he is out caught behind, it shows the lack of sportmanship which the Aussies are feeling proud of. Let us wish India plays the other two matches to their potential and win or draw but certainly not to lose further.

  • derrida_derider on January 10, 2008, 1:28 GMT

    This is very one-eyed. India (and Australia too - it wasn't all one way) are right to grumble about the umpiring in this match. But on Singh:

    - he had a very long hearing, after which Boucher, a man with no axe to grind, was satisfied "beyond reasonable doubt" (his words) that Singh had called Symonds a monkey. No-one here has had the benefit, as Boucher did, of questioning the participants at length.

    - Singh was explicitly warned after the last one-day series in India that his use of the term "monkey" was racist and would be reported in future. Claims that Singh didn't mean to be racist are therefore false. He's lucky Symonds didn't bust his nose.

    All this shows the Indian team to be spoilt prima donnas. There'd be none of this fuss if they'd had the toughness to survive two sessions against spinners who aren't even as good as Singh, let alone Warne.

    Roll on Perth - I expect the Aussie quicks to REALLY humiliate them there.

  • mattrick on January 10, 2008, 1:26 GMT

    I'm not sure why there is an insistance that a verdict cannot be reached in the Harbhajan case based on the evidence of the players involved. In many civil disputes a judge or jury reach a verdict based on the evidence given by the opposing parties, or to put it another way, believe one persons word over another. This is because one version was credible in the adjudicator's view and the other was not. It may pain Indian supporters to hear this but Mike Proctor seems to have made his judgement based on these principles. Whatever evidence Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh gave at the hearing was not credible in Proctor's mind. I have no idea why he reached this conclusion and I'm sure a lot of people think the Australians shouldn't have been trusted either. The main problem is the ICC insisting on a closed hearing as without a transparent process all people can do is speculate and that is unsatisfactory.

  • SensibleAussie on January 10, 2008, 1:21 GMT

    A fantastic piece of writing and the most balanced view point yet Sambit. It has disappointed me to see one eyed articles potraying the Aussies as arrogant cheats and the Indians as saints. I'm glad that someone notable can see that both teams have been at fault, the Aussies for the way they conducted themselves at times, and the Indians for the way they have reacted to this match both as a team and as a nation. Also, it was refreshing to know that someone understands that it is the context and situation in which a remark/sledge is used that conveys it's total effect. I am so sick of people saying Harbhajan has been so hard done by because all he did was call Symonds a monkey. After the last tour of India, he knew exactly how tender that area was and knew that this particular comment would hurt Symonds especially, and for that he should get what is coming to him. Again, great article.

  • Goran on January 10, 2008, 1:11 GMT

    Absolutely spot on. Apart from Sanjay's article also on this website, this has been the only balanced well thought out piece of journalism I've read on this matter amongst the ridiculous histeria drummed up by both the Australian and Indian media. Keep up the good work Sambit!

  • josw on January 10, 2008, 0:45 GMT

    This stand by India is roughly the equivalent of St. Kilda seceding from the AFL because an umpiring mistake cost them the points. In fact it is worse because the Saints actually played well enough to win. India had every chance to win or draw this game. Errors notwithstanding, they have sufficient talent to win but apparently no spine. Errors were not all one way yet Australia played on. There was no way India should have allowed Australia to dominate on that last day, there is simply no excuse.To blame the umpire is hypocritical. Almost every test country has suffered at the hands of Indian umpires for more years than I can remember. I did not hear them screaming then. There is sufficient evidence that they are no better or worse than anyone else at walking, honesty or any other measure we would want to measure. On the racism issue, I have no other evidence that you. On that basis it seems a bit over the top to suggest than he could not do it because he is Indian.

  • JyNx on January 10, 2008, 0:29 GMT

    Nobody had actually heard what Harbhajan had said to Symonds and only Harbhajan and Symonds know what Bhajji said, and even if Harbhajan did say anything I think Ponting should have been mature enough to sort it out on the field. The aussies have created a big thing out of it and now nobody is happy, the cricket lovers in India, the Australian cricket team nor the BCCI and the ICC. I think The Indian Cricket team should go back to India.

  • alokshree on January 10, 2008, 0:24 GMT

    Like Dave2008 said, i think Indians need to respond according to the situation. You can sense anything wrong within the span of 5 days and act accordingly. This time Australians were really lacking sportsmanship but they are still defending it. Ponting's turning down of the request from Kumble shows what water the Australians are. Indians need to learn a lesson here.

  • redneck on January 10, 2008, 0:22 GMT

    what does the I in ICC really stand for??? international or indian? if that test was say new zealand v aus i highly doubt bucknor would have been stood down!!! indian may generate funds for cricket but them must be put in their place, they are 1 equal member of 10 countries. for them to contemplate abandoning their once every 4 years tour of aus when aus have to go there year in year out is obsured they clearly think they run the game!!! bucknor had a shocker of a year and the icc should have delt with it behind close doors and not made a public example of the most caped umpire in history! what umpire on earth would want to stand a indian match now??? and more so any 50/50 decission from now on involving india on the field, this incedent will surely be going through the umpires mind when he makes his decission! ICC grow some balls and stand up for what is right for the game!!!!!

  • srilekar on January 10, 2008, 0:22 GMT

    I feel it is a plot against Harbhajan and Indians. First remember Symmonds said in India, he will see Indians in Australia. Well if you see in 2nd match Australian team lost 6 wickets for 136 it was the time Australians decided to turn the coin. They decided to go against Indians with the help of Umpires. It is foolish to see and back the umpires who refused to ask 3rd umpire when field umpire not sure about the decision about stumping or runout. Bucknor has to be big fool not to ask 3rd umpire and next one asking Ponting for clarification. IF Ponting to be 3rd umpire then he should be 1st and 2 nd too. Australians did not expected to lose 6 wickets and again Indians to do 500 plus runs. They want to have wins of 16-17 in row. When we look at these it is a plot to have record. Australians are the big racists in the world everybody knows.

  • coolguy100 on January 10, 2008, 0:17 GMT

    It is good that a lot of issues have come up after the Sydney test and both the teams, both the boards, both the umpires have learnt their lessons.A knee jerk reaction has caused a furore raging over the two countries.ICC has also learnt a lesson and will become better at handling such things in the future. Now it is time to focus on Perth test.What are we going to do with jaffar and Yuvraj Singh, What bowling combination India should have? We have to win the test match, atleast to show Australia, that we can match their talent which is the truth.

  • Adoh on January 10, 2008, 0:06 GMT

    There are lots of expressions of mind reading and intent from commentators on behalf of the Australian players, but nothing substantive to support the claim that the Australians were not playing in the spirit of the game or being bad sports. I think I must have been transported to bizzaro world this week as growing up in Australia I was taught that part of being a good sport was to accept and respect the decisions of the umpires. There is only one team complaining about the umpiring, and they are the ones self righteously claiming to be good sports! Someone please pass this on to Rove for 'what the'?

  • saltedmushroom on January 9, 2008, 23:59 GMT

    "Ugly Nationalism" Is this what you call the sentiments of the hundreds of fans feeding the cricket engine of the world with their own time,blood and money in both the countries. If you call this ugly then what will you say about the soccer fever in Europe.

    I cannot go beyond these 2 words in your article. I am sitting in New York and following the game and I can tell you my friend the picture is not rosy for a foreigner. To me all these actions were a sigh of a little relief that the country I belong to still have unity and strength over a issue. I condemn violence in games but don't try to bell the cat for wrong reasons. Both the countries have equal status and opinions on this test match result and they are entitled to express them, the mode may be different.

    I am not sure if you will publish this article but Mr Smabit please refrain yourself from using these words for any nation be it India ,Australia or any other country.

    Vande Matram

  • suryacricket on January 9, 2008, 23:19 GMT

    I think India made a big deal out of removal of umpire. it was not the mistake of umpire alone. who on this earth can fail to play 2 overs with three wickets in hand?. In case of Australians being rude, I am always with them. we got to realize that is the way Australians play cricket. They play it hard,rude. You want to Crush Australia? Do it on the field by winning matches. And I completely agree that the outward aggression we(indian team) show is disgustingly fake. we got to stop it. we are ignoring how bad our indian team performed in the last day of match. Let alone Bajji's racism comments, he should be sacked from team for collapsing on the ground after he got out on the final day of the test match. That kind of actions not only insult the team but also the whole nation. it was so embarrassing.I would have been really proud of indian cricket team if they had not complained about Umpiring(but not the Bujji's Ban,ofcourse), won the rest of two test matches.

  • popgun on January 9, 2008, 23:07 GMT

    I guess further questions need to be answered. Will the Australian team forgo future tours of India if the Indians go home? Will the Australians refuse to play if Hogg is suspended and Harbhajan is let off?. My guess will be know but I'm not Cricket Australia. However the BCCI has opened a pandora box by adopting the mantra of a two year old. If things go against you, spit the dummy and you will eventually get your own away.

  • lotusgold on January 9, 2008, 23:06 GMT

    One of the well thought out written articles on the burning issues - I think Cricinfo and Wisden have the responsibility to take up to the ICC along with cricketing pubilc support to do the following at the earliest - 1. Ban sledging and on field mutterings around the playing batsman - already a very nice article has appeared. Racism and other major problems will disappear. 2. ICC umpire referrals (or challenges by the batting and fielding teams)should be implemented immediately. This would be a very good compromise between not 100 % efficient technology and not even sometimes 50 % efficient umpires These must be the real outcomes out of the Sydney test - in fact BCCI should push for these changes than trying to defend one individual.

  • Patrick_Keogh on January 9, 2008, 22:54 GMT

    Cry babies!

    So now India can pick the team it wants and the umpires it wants. Time for excuses is over. India only has to bring three or four world class seam bowlers and a decent batting side to Perth and they can win. I can't wait. Ha ha ha. (Oh, don't forget to bring a few replacement backbones for the players who forgot to take theirs to Sydney).

    Maybe after Perth they'll be saying "such and such an Australian player should be dropped". Do you think if India can pick their own team, the umpires and the Australian team they will get it right by Brisbane?

  • Figaro on January 9, 2008, 22:47 GMT

    There are several distinct questions about the Harbajhan incident. Did he call Symonds a monkey? If he did, would it have been racist? Should it have been reported to the third umpire? Would the suspension have been justified? I suggest the answers are: 1 Maybe, maybe not - no-one other than the players know. 2, In the circumstances, yes. 3 No, leave such matters to the umpires, player reporting player is absurd. 4 If it had been heard by an umpire or stump mike, yes. Of the other issues - let umpire's be the only ones who can report a player; require the umpires to use their own judjment about catches and not ask players; let the third umpire over-rule the on-field umpire if the decision is clearly wrong. Also, every team in the world uses sledging, so no-one is clean on this issue. Is it really possible to stop all on-field communications between teams or players. How many critics or commentators could stay silent for 6 hours a day?

  • degruch on January 9, 2008, 22:34 GMT

    Thankyou for the balanced point of view Sambit, much better than the dibble Peter English concocted earlier. Does the Indian Cricket Board realise how bad they look? By forcing the removal of Steve Bucknor (and no doubt Brad Hogg in a few days, to even up the ledger), defending racist comments and re-inforcing the 'sour grapes' comments of it's captain, they're making the Australian cricket team look like saints. During Steve Waugh's last tour of India, Steve Bucknor was the Indian teams best friend, paying every LBW appeal against Australia, no matter how ludicrous. How things change when the game doesn't go your way. Indian cricket fans needs to take it on the chin, the same way Australian fans have in the past on many occasions. The simple fact of the matter is that the Indian team is not strong. If wickets weren't given under dubious circumstances, you'd only need wait for another ball or two for the next opportunity. C'mon Indian cricket, we know you're better than this.

  • Gomez2008 on January 9, 2008, 22:31 GMT

    It is a pleasure to read some reasonable words amid the deluge of political hearsay and hyperbole. The sad thing is that this game will not be remembered for the right thing. Laxman's first innings century was incredible. Under the most intense pressure and with a misfiring partner. That is what cricket is about. I just wish more people would remember that.

  • dcrowle on January 9, 2008, 21:01 GMT

    Does everyone forget that Harbhajan was found guilty? Everyone's talking about it like it's a conspiracy or that he's innocent or it never actually happened. I would think this is the most important issue out of this match. Calling it "Ugly Nationalism" is a poor attempt to get around saying that he was found guilty (and still is) of Racist remarks. This should not be tolerated, especially given that after the last tour of India every player on both sides knew that to call someone a Monkey was purely and simply a racist comment after the behaviour of the crowds for weeks. Regardless of provocation, racism has no place. 3 matches is getting off lightly. Innocent until proven guilty? He was proved guilty according to officials.

  • thirval on January 9, 2008, 20:41 GMT

    It is unfair to criticize the Indians. They tried their best to play the game with great spirit. What they should have done was not to get anywhere near the ball and not let the ball touch the pad. The way RP Singh was given out, is an example. Do not give opportunity for the umpires to make mistake. Dhoni was another culprit. He should have used the bat not his pad. Everyone should have played like how Kumble played. He used the feet and played almost every ball on the front foot. Thats how they should have played. Moreover, if the game had been drawn, Bucknor would be still standing for the Perth test. They should have demanded for the removal of Mike Procter too. He is biased and I hope Harbajan is cleared due lack of evidence.

  • ssid on January 9, 2008, 20:23 GMT

    I am not quite sure what's all the fuss about? If Ricky Ponting really believed that he actually caught it fairly, why there is a problem? Even Umpires make mistakes. Kumble agreed to believing fielder's words and he should not be crying now even if he disagrees. Things like this can go either way and even Empires make mistakes. As far as Harbajan's case is concerned, I do believe he actually called Symonds a monkey. Symonds did not accuse anyone else of doing something like this despite what he went through in India with Sreeshanth, Harbajan and the crowd. Symonds sledges and I am sure he gets sledged a lot too. Why would he make up a story without substantial evidence and have Ricky Ponting report it, if it was just normal sledging. The problem however is that if Harbajan denies it (again I think he is lying), Mike Proctor has no right to convict. Let's focus on the fact that India got beaten by Australia and what can India do to come back?

  • FredSpofforth on January 9, 2008, 20:21 GMT

    Thanks Sambit, that's one of the most level-headed and well-reasoned articles on this week's events.

  • Ckt_Lover on January 9, 2008, 20:03 GMT

    This article seems to be quite realistic and well assorted, in summing up the last few days. It was one of those instances when things just kept on happening. The game itself possessing multitude of details, it's no surprise many could not find clarity to the different aspects which got entwined. It was a case of too much happening, in too little time. And in the resultant confusion, everything got bundled up into one, and was thrown all over the place. I think it will all serve for the good. What happened have raised quite many questions on the prospect of ensuring a fair game. Lead to debates on related issues on-field. And went as far as difference of cultures. It was a reality check. Seems like now things are on the way back to nromalcy. Hopefully, what's happened will help in better understanding. Understanding others, as well as oneselves. And then going on again, as good comrades of the game.

  • Australopithecus on January 9, 2008, 19:48 GMT

    I have no doubts about the matter. The Australian cricketers have a long history of "playing it hard". Bill Lawry stood on his stumps in the Newlands test (Cape Town) in 1970 - Who me ? Didn't have the honesty to walk. More recently in the closing stages of a test against South Africa, Steve Waugh hit his wicket and was given not out - had he played in the spirit of the game, he would have walked. Such a pity, as they are superb cricketers and have no need to behave in this matter. Recent, over exhuberent celebrations at the fall of wickets haven't endeared them to the rest of us either. Quite frankly, they are becoming a bit of a bore !

  • Heathcliffe on January 9, 2008, 19:48 GMT

    I wonder if this cricket furore between Australia and India would have existed if 1) the match was drawn 2)if India somehow won. That there were Bad umpiring decisions is not in doubt and poor Bucknor has now paid the price for this. Is it not time for someone as old as Bucknor to gracefully retire and perhaps write a book? I would not have sacked him but phased him out over the long 2008 and privately advised him to get his act together pretty sharp. After all, he has been a great umpire for all these years and one cannot deny that. A monkey in India is almost a diety e.g. Hanuman from Lanka but a bastard is a bastard. Now I am being very silly and so should Ricky Ponting be. I think he was being utterly silly or perhaps as somebody else said, he was out to get his nemises.....Harbhajan. The man of the match of this whole episode is Anil Kumble. The villain of the peace must therefore be Silly Ricky Ponting.

  • anand71 on January 9, 2008, 19:41 GMT

    In every aspect of life - politics,war,economy,etc., it is the rich and the powerful who have their way- remember USA is the only superpower in the world and they had their way in Iraq, Russia is flexing its muscle in Europe on the basis of it gas reserves. Similarly,India generates 70% of the ICC's revenue, so we should be able to arm-twist the ICC. It is fair. If the Poms,Kangaroos or the WICB want to whine about it, they are free to do so.

    Bucknor seems to be pseudo-Australian version of Khizar Hayat(the scourge of touring teams in Pakistan in the 70s and 80s.). He better step down on his own rather than being asked to step down.

  • BlunderDownUnder on January 9, 2008, 19:23 GMT

    I don't know why this notion comes up all the time as India being "Sore Losers." Everyone knew what happened in the Sydney test. 7:1 was the decision against the Indians; otherwise, I feel they would have won the match with ease. We all know who the "sore losers" are. We've just witnessed that the Aussies would go to any extent to claim a victory and when they lose one could see the hatred in their eyes for the opposition.

  • Harinder_Jadwani on January 9, 2008, 19:15 GMT

    A seemingly balanced but ultimately confusing article. Mr. Bal has been too zealous in attempting to seem fair and to cover all bases. Here are some things he failed to emphasise: 1. the monkey word, if used, was provoked by Symonds, who is not a victim, but a provocateur in this case, and also a beneficiary of unbelievable favoritism by Bucknor..batting and bowling wise. 2. The real problem is an Aussie team wanting to win at all costs - sledging, claiming grounded catches .3. ugliness on the ground has long been a feature of Aussie tactics - their own commentators (eg Slater) argued Harbhajan could have used expletives...why? Why is profanity acceptable but the monkey word not? In both cases a person's dignity is offended. We need a larger-scale review of the langusge and sledging used, and all of such behavior needs to be eliminated..4. The precedent of erasing this Test from history needs to be set - the umpiring being so imbecilical - it altered the outcome of the game.

  • mailvips on January 9, 2008, 19:09 GMT

    Great article Samit. I think the reason why Ponting made this allegation despite Kumble's request of not doing so is that he knew that Harbhajan had his number (proven in second innings) and this might be one way of taking him out of play for the series. So he tried this new immature trick to unbalance Bhajji. But I think they went too far in this and this 'win at all cost' triumphalism is what Kumble termed as not in spirit of the game.

    Also I still believe the ethics commitee should decide on what is racist and what is not. It can not be based on one player's preferences and feelings(Symonds). Tommorow some players may start terming simple insults as racist and the match refrees will be really busy.

    Lastly the matter even should not have gone this far - Proctor should have seen if there's any evidence other than hearsay and comments from parties with vested interest. If not the accused is not guilty. It can be as simple as that. Same should be applied to Brad Hogg's case.

  • atsingh on January 9, 2008, 19:03 GMT

    Indians are angry over the injustice done to Bhajji by the ICC and the media. As the author has accurately pointed out that there is no conclusive evidence to indict Bhajji. Bhajji was indicted in a partial hearing conducted by an ICC official who decided that the word of Australians is correct nad Indians are lying based on his instincts. Is this justice ? This double-whammy of the ICC match refree and the ICC appointed umpires has incensed the Indian nation. This is not ugly nationalism. This is a desire for justice.

  • smale25 on January 9, 2008, 18:31 GMT

    Statement of N Srinivasan, BCCI Treasurer on Jan 9, 2008 (I have capitalized some words for emphasis): "The working committee of the BCCI took note of all relevant circumstances and developments and decided that the Indian team tour to Australia should continue for the present. The working committee FULLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY endorsed the stand taken by the President and the concerned officials with respect to the quality of umpiring and the TOTALLY UNCALLED FOR, UNJUSTIFIED and PATENTLY ILLEGAL ban imposed on Harbhajan Singh by the match referee. The BCCI will review the tour and all other developments continuously. The BCCI will request the ICC appeals commissioner appointed to hear Harbhajan Singh's appeal to expeditiously dispose off the appeal." Sambit Bal: why do you think this is not a factual assessment, but an ugly outburst of nationalism? If you don't show more intelligence, Cricinfo is in danger of becoming irrelevant to cricket.

  • World-Beaters on January 9, 2008, 18:29 GMT

    Very balanced, well surmised and written article. I agree with what Sambit Bal says entirely. We should now focus on playing cricket. The sad part is that half the problem was avoidable (or may be whole of it)if Steve Bucknor was not appointed for this series in the first place. True, everyone makes mistakes and to do take decisions at the heat of the moment is not easy. However an umpire should command respect from both teams then when those mistakes happens can easily be accepted as human errors by everybody. When there is a history of him being not being well liked by the Indians (I don't need to expand)then to appoint him for such series by ICC lacks foresight and planning. I think it is probably best for Steve that he has been removed for the rest of the series because he would have been under tremendous pressure possibly unfairly. For me when a professional is not upto the standards he/she needs to be replaced. Though the manner in which it was done, left a lot to be desired.

  • carthorse on January 9, 2008, 18:11 GMT

    Look. The facts are that Australia always plays home games with twelve wickets and the opposition eight, check the videos if you dispute this. A remarkable and unexplainable truth. If you doubt Australia are the pitts and a disgrace, check another truth, Australian supremo, Mr Sutherland. states at his press conference attempting to justify his captain and players, quote/ we would not be having this debate if Clarke had not taken three wickets with five balls unquote/ Think about it. What a slur directed at India. How come the media somehow allege that India is flexing muscle? If you follow cricket, have Ponting and confessed cheat Symmonds. more credibility than Kumble and Tendulkar?

  • gindrayan on January 9, 2008, 18:00 GMT

    What happened in Sydney has definitely brought a bad name to the game. Ponting and his men with their attitude and the umpires with their decisions, while trying to defeat India, actually defeated the game of cricket. While its heartening to see whole India and media coming together to show that they can't be taken for granted and justice needs to be done, it also brought to the forefront the Australian cricket's haughtiness and condescending attitude. And yes, some real good batting by Sachin Tendulkar and the memorable ovation by the crowd at SCG has been completely overshadowed. Hope India can teach them a lesson by being more aggressive in the future.

  • goosebump on January 9, 2008, 17:53 GMT

    I guess the yardstick for evaluation of all players in the team should be the same. Dhoni might carry the superstar tag along with him, but if dinesh Karthick would serve theneeds of the team better we might have to deal with the decision of leaving out dhoni. The issue currently holding limelight have thrown cricket in the backburner and India will have to address their shortcoming in the match. I hope they would regather themselves and put up a much vaunted performance in perth eenhtough the odd are heavily staked aginst them.

  • BapiDas on January 9, 2008, 17:51 GMT

    Definitely one of the better composed articles. But despite all the unfair decisions and sledging and match referee's unjust decision agains Harbhajan Singh, the Indians should have played out the match to a draw. That they could not achieve this proves that they have a long way to go before they can catch up with the Aussies in the matter of playing out the game! Team India must now forget SCG and everything else. They must play out of their skins to try to win at Perth and Adelaide. Never ever in the past the Team has been so united. Let them now show their steely resolve and play good hard cricket. I for one will be totally satisfied if they did that collectively, not just one or two doing well and the others failing to deliver!

  • aswattama on January 9, 2008, 17:32 GMT

    thats all OK, but what I am worried about is what kind of team would India field at Perth? With RP Singh, a player who was a raw debutant just a season ago, at the head of the attack, and Ishant Sharma the only other bowler above military medium pace, the question is: can we field a eleven with even 3 decent bowlers in the event that Harbhajan is suspended? If not, it would be better to concede the match and pull out - or win the toss and try and bat thru the 5 days:-)

  • cruisecontrol on January 9, 2008, 17:28 GMT

    One of the most significant and pithy commentary ever on Indian sport (aptitude) was made last year by Dravid. He said Indians are not athletes but cricketers and hence (he implied) the mental and physical preparation must perforce take a different route. Here's a proposal for India: take the money and - no, don't run- put it in grooming real sportsman. Let kids play in the backyard instead of haranguing them and pounding them with cramming the books so they can turn out to be the same old same old doctor sa'abs, call center gals, data coolies...So, spend the money on educating parents about other options and build the bloody parks and facilities for other sports. And, yes, lest I forget, let the kids sledge just as rough and tumble school sports should be like...Don't please get your politically correct, wimpy, meek mind into sport and stop sledging. It's fun and it's a natural expression of aggression, particulalrly boys. But then, who am I telling !!

  • TeamIndiafan on January 9, 2008, 17:24 GMT

    I agree with part of the article. India could have flexed its muscle a long time ago but after this horrendous umpiring if they ask for an umpire change all sort of allegations have started to come. Even if India did what is wrong with that. For a long time now cricketing decisions have been always made by England or Australia but now India has the muscle to do it so why not. Most of the ex players are mad that ICC caved in to India's request because they feel their grip over all the admin decisions are slipping away. The Aussies are saying that its just that Umpires had a bad game would they have said the same thing if this situation would have been reversed. They complained to the ICC for a dusty pitch in Mumbai in which they lost. No wonder they are not liked by any other international teams. Westindies in their day were the team to beat but they were liked by every team may be this Australian team has to learn a lot from them.

  • gappbaaz on January 9, 2008, 17:20 GMT

    In this day and age of technology, one cannot understand why it is not being used more extensively to give correct decisions. Just to preserve the human element we cannot let incorrect decisions stand. The game of cricket should also evolve with the times just like other sports which use technology to settle questionable calls or mistakes. Cricket already uses it by referring decisions to the third umpire but it needs to do more of that. This will definitely relieve a lot of stress on the umpires and would also put to stop to the practice of relying on the word of either the fielding or batting sides for close decisions. Also, the quality of umpires, as Sambit Bal says, should be improved. ICC is at fault in the first place to let Steve Bucknor be in its elite panel. His wisdom will be more useful as a match refree now instead of being on a field.

  • cruisecontrol on January 9, 2008, 17:17 GMT

    Being of Indian origin, I can empathize with India feeling aggrieved about the umpiring decisions. I don't agree with the BCCI arm-twisting to sack Bucknor though. It sets a bad precedent and draws more distrust (of India) amongst the other nations. I won't comment on Harbajan since I don't know if he has indeed slurred. But, as Bal says, given the precedent and attention on him, he's stupid to get into trouble at all.

    Here's what I'd like to have seen, in true Indian tradition: India must play a silent match. No media interviews; no appeals. India plays the next test match with arm bands (enter the field with mouths covered in white bands) and refuses to appeal even if it were plumb LBW. That puts the onus on the batsman. See how the Aussies respond. Yeah, you might miss out a few genuine outs but what have you got to lose anyway? But, you'll gain a lost of respect and you'd be asking some intense questions of the world of cricket and giving everyone something to think about

  • smale25 on January 9, 2008, 17:04 GMT

    Sambit Bal: I must say that your phrase '..., and in India we have seen an outpouring of ugly nationalism' is quite insensitive. Why should India treat this whole racism issue seriously when there are millions of Indian struggling in poverty? The majority in India now agree that the charge of racism against Harbhajan Singh is false. But, the Australian media and the match referee initially projected that Indians bear an equal responsibility as the white man to compensate for the cruelties of racism in times past. This 'chest-thumping by uncultured Indians' is precisely the mechanism that has served to establish that the racism charge was trumped up. Now, could you explain then why the racism charge was brought up in the first place, and left as a dangling sword over the Indian team's head through the last three days of the match? May I wonder if it was to influence the outcome of the game?

  • Kumar77 on January 9, 2008, 17:03 GMT

    just wanted to add to my previous comment, that zidane's incident was the best example of how it needs to be handled, concrete proof.. not hearsay.. i'm sure the other guy said something really abusive, but the max response from zidane should be in the same kind.. or like ian chappel suggested, smile back, that has a pretty good chance of working.. as there is no fun in bouncing a ball off sand.. and they will eventually shut up.. there was no way thier conversation could have been recorded, lip reading on video is inaccurate.. why cant they start experimenting with referalls and technology? its high time.. umpiring academy should be a must... more quality umpires needed.. to reduce stress on available ones.. bucknor was good before, sad to see this happen.. BCCI and ICC are not too different from political parties.. cant expect a lot from them.. i hope sensible journalists like you, and cricket fans like the rest of us who posted comments here.. dont give up on cricket..

  • Dave2008 on January 9, 2008, 16:57 GMT

    I do not understand why Indian writers are not pointing to Andrew Symonds who was the principal instigator in this case. By his own admission, he said that he went and had the first word with Harbhajan when Harbhajan patted Bret Lee on his back. Bret had no problems with that, but Symonds was itching to have a go at Harbhajan, because Harbhajan was stroking the ball freely and the Aussies know that when they cannot get you the real way, try the crooked way. Is that the definition of sportsmanship? One should recall that the Indian players, especially the younger lot - Harbhajan and Yuvraj had declared at the beginning of the series that they will try to play it in the best spirit of the game but will respond if they are provoked. How long do you want the passive attitude of Indians to continue? Nobody has asked the question about what Symonds first said to Harbhajan? Did he say F*** you? If he did and if Harbhajan responded, can you blame him?

  • gvk2710 on January 9, 2008, 16:52 GMT

    It is so tragic that what was a gentleman's game has come to this state. It is more of a money spinner today than a sport. The point made that the proceedings of the enquiry should be in the Public Domain is a very valid one; possibly even a legal requirement. Perhaps member associations should force the issue. Players also should conduct themselves with more dignity. Had Harbajan done that, instead of stooping to the Australian level, the whole story would have been different. It is about time Indian players asserted their dignified stature....Let us also think, why are players like Harbajan and SreeSant only in the eye of the storm? Why dont the Australians try their monkey tricks with Kumble, Sachin, Sourav, Dravid, R.P.Singh and others like them? Do we also need to look inward?

  • Nampally on January 9, 2008, 16:49 GMT

    Buckner clearly showed his strong bias towards protecting Symonds interests. He gave him NOT out 3 times in the first innings and first ball in the second. Then gave Dravid got Bucknered - caught behind of Symonds when the bat was no where near the ball. Symonds boosted his total by 191 runs in this test + a free Dravid's wicket . Ponting and Hussey were both out caught behind as well, adjudged not out by the other Umpire. The benefit of doubt always went in Australia's favour for all catches - giving Ganguly out.

    As for Harbhajan's case, Ponting wanted him out of the way because he is Harbhajan's Bunny - Ponting's way of playing "Hard". If the Umpires did not hear "on - field discussion" between Symonds and Harbhajan, there is no case -period. Alternative is to ban Sledging altogether.

    Kumble and his men played courageously against 11 Aussies + 2 Umpires - impossible odds to win against. If the Umpiring decisions were at least 50-50, India would have won this Test match easily.

  • IndiFan88 on January 9, 2008, 16:20 GMT

    bravo. I completely agree with Mr. Bal. There is no point arguing for fays to come about what Bajji might have said or why Bucknor lost us the game. One thing we can all agree is that decisions should be left to the umpires and if they are uncertain, the third umpire should be referred to. Now lets get back to discussing the problems India face. I think they should get rid of Jaffer and sadly Yuvi and replace them with Sehwag and Irfan. Sehwag gets out fast, but atleast he score some runs before that. And Irfan is a very good batsmen and is a bowler (two pluses) whereas Yuvi did basically nothing (highest 12 in 4 innnings).

  • Kumar77 on January 9, 2008, 16:12 GMT

    good article. puts things in perspective as opposed to manjrekar's crazily circumlocuted one. my 2 cents: 1. sledging cannot be banned or controlled, its natural, been there for ever, will be there forever.. its good for the spectators.. challenging for players who should be able handle such things, as they are used to it from street level. the phrase in ICC terming racial or similar abuse as an offense, leaves room for aussies etc to the art of abusing the opponents up to the limit. Indians who are naturally more emotional need to master it yet. ICC need to draw the line saying physical gestures and man-handling would result in severe punishments. as they can be proved on tv.. while in most cases sledging cannot be recorded. harbhajan should be set free, even though i believe he said it after being provoked.. as there is no evidence.. 2. repeated incompetence by umpires should result in action, so they were right about bucknor. 3. players cannot be umpires. period. 4. use tech, yes.

  • Ranji72 on January 9, 2008, 16:06 GMT

    Just a clarification...it keeps cropping up- the fact that Ponting didn't claim a catch in the first innings that he took...actually it was Hussey who took the catch (of Dravid) at gully that came off a suspected bump ball..Hussey appealed but Ponting standing at first slip and Gilly didn't join in appealing..I felt that was quite honorable to do so at that point..though the events of the rest of the match took a different turn. Also what has been forgotten in the hullaballoo is that this was indeed an imminently great test match to watch and that despite two dicey decisions, India had no business to lose the restof the wickets in two sessions...that it was undeniably a poor batting display for the umpteenth time by a much wonted batting line up...can't say though that I was surprised after all these years of watching India..

  • Adonis1976 on January 9, 2008, 16:04 GMT

    It is real unfortunate what happened at SCG. It turns out that oustide of India losing the test and Australia going down and dirty to create a world record, Harbajan and Steve Bucknor are the only two individual who suffered the consequences. Now whether Harbhajan said something or was he provocated to utter that sacred word, is yet to be proven.. I wonder why only Steve Bucknor is under scrutiny, when we all saw that the other umpire had a fair share of bad decisions, inlcuding Ricky's edge to Dhoni in first innings and later not calling for third umpire when Clarke grassed the catch... I hope and sincerly hope that its not becoz of his color.. Umpire Benson should be treated with the same stick.. and most importantly.. there is should be an age limit to retire as an umpire.

  • jizzmaster on January 9, 2008, 16:02 GMT

    This current Australian team are a disgrace. One can only imagine the things that are said on the field. But when it comes to receiving them they are not so gracious. (see also Glenn McGrath in the West Indies a few years ago) Harbajan was obviously provoked, but we hear nothing from what Symonds had said. Why is it that only racist insults are banned? You can call someone a c... but not black .....

  • drneilmukherjee on January 9, 2008, 16:00 GMT

    Why not remove umpires to make them accountable? Will Yuvraj or Jaffer play at Perth - definitely not! Then why should Bucknor? That is if he is not in cohorts with the Aussies which is not clarified yet. Symonds patting Bucknor after getting Dravid out to a horrendous 'error' tells a different story!

  • ICCChief on January 9, 2008, 15:56 GMT

    Well, A lot has been said and try to look at other picture. Look at other sports like Tennis and football. You will see lot of umpires besides referee. Why not have more umpires? may be one Behind Wicket Keeper, One on offside! if not why not try to see the fatigue of umpires in a Test Match? why only 2 umpires in a day? have pool of umpires 6 umpires and have 2 umpires per session and rest can do third umpires job. It is not bad to improve the decision making by any of the above methods. Definitely the above methods will work and lot of Umpires will be happy. Clearly what happened in Sydney was due to Fatiguness of umpires.

  • phillidoc on January 9, 2008, 15:55 GMT

    I think the main culprit here is Mike Proctor, Indians should have asked for his removal. He always takes controversial decisions aiming against sub-continental teams. Suspending Harbhajan without enough evidence and not to take any action against Ponting when Proctor himself suspended Rashid Latif for claiming an ufair catch speaks for his double standards. Besides he is so incompetent that he knew about the tension between the two teams and did nothing to diffuse it. If he would have spoken to the captains and the umpires after the play on day one, then probably we might not have been subjected to all this and would have enjoyed the otherwise great performances of this test match.

  • ndsing on January 9, 2008, 15:52 GMT

    It is a good article. The Aussies are arrogant and they have had a history of identifying and targeting potential preys in the opposite teams in a planned fashion. I would love to see their reaction if in a match - out of 12 decisions, 10 are against them due to unfair umpiring by all the Umpires. To top that, an match refree that is well versed at delivering decisions in a one sided Kangaroo court system where everybody who is not their side is a lier. They talk about ugly nationalism in India - inspite of treating all the Asian bloc teams with total disrespect for decades.

  • ArmchairXI on January 9, 2008, 15:34 GMT

    One of the better articles over the last few days. However with the issue with the catches i have no doubt that both Benson and Bucknor believed clarke caught the ball and the confirmation from Ricky simply gave the situation clarity. I do not agree with catches going to the third umpire as close catches are always too hard to tell whether someone actually caught the ball or not and and the umpire is in doubt then give not out. Secondly the fact that umpires are humans and make human mistakes is what makes the game so great, the debate and talk that just a few simple mistakes has caused is incredible and is something to be celebrated and shows cricket is alive and well. It dissapoints me that ppl insist that India would have won this test if the contentious decisions were in their favour. This is not my belief as any cricket fan over the last 10 years should know Australia is a champion team and have the ability to respond to any challenge, you are naive if you think otherwise.

  • RNair2 on January 9, 2008, 15:21 GMT

    Memo to Cricket lovers worldwide: Team Australia- You can beat most teams with 9 players, you don't need 13? Team India-Quit Whining/ You need to have a stiffer spine than to loose all those wickets in the penultimate over. Overcome adversity and you will earn respect. Indian Fans- Get a life Steve Bucknor- Your Social Security is long overdue BCCI - Resting place for former politicians without a clue for the welfare of the game. a BCCI win = Cricket Loss Harbhajan Singh - Sorry, you said something and it wasn't 'Sweat Dreams. Ricky Ponting- You need to learn to 'Walk' before you can run away from the field. Andrew Symonds- Sainthood ain't waiting for you at the end of this tunnel. Test Cricket passed away at Sydney last week. RIP

  • keralman on January 9, 2008, 15:15 GMT

    Why Harbhajan? It is likely that Australians targeted him because he was vulnerable.Cant it be that there was more to that for Ricky Ponting to go ahead with the complaint turning down Kumble's offer? one cannot forget the fact that Ricky Ponting has been struggling against him with his bat.Look at the statistics.Is that enough for the mens rea? Keralman

  • Raghuvir on January 9, 2008, 15:14 GMT

    What concerns me is that certain key questions have not been asked the powers that be.

    Why should umpires be shielded in such a manner? Just as an out-of-form player gets dropped, out-of-form umpires should also be dropped/rested. Without an umpire having to be accountable for his decisions, the Sydney situation is bound to recur. Technology today may not guarantee 100% accurate decisions, but it certainly can ensure that the incorrect calls made in Sydney, were over-ruled by the third umpire and/or the referee.

    How does the rule with regards to a catch, when the ball has hit the ground, read? Ponting and Clarke (after taking the catch he rolled over and the ball has contact with the turf) did it in the Sydney test.

    Just as a team is bigger than any player, similarly the team of officials - umpires and the referee - should be bigger than any official. Bucknor was good in the past but is past his prime. If he continues till 2011, be prepared for a sequel.

  • wmathew on January 9, 2008, 15:08 GMT

    We have seen enough of the so called fair Australians in just one test, we have no problem in playing hard and fair cricket and sledging has to be banned in all forms by players against players in the middle. Atleast somebody had the bone to stand up to the nonsence. Cricket is much more than individuals but you don't break the gentlemanly rules because this game has so many ways that an umpire can be beat. Well Bucknor may be past his prime or not he could have referred the close decisions to the third umpire for advice as he did on the 5th day . And to boot all his decisions affected India. Ponting was already out so a bad decision later just did not rectify that previous error. This same Ponting had said during the 20/20 finals that the batsmen who nicked it should have walked when one of the indian batsman nicked and did not walk but now we know the "HYPOCRITE" ponting. Please do not promote him to advice or be a role model for our kids.

  • PratUSA on January 9, 2008, 14:59 GMT

    My initial reaction on last day of Sydney test was that removing Bucknor would be wrong and set the wrong precedent but more I thought about it, it just felt right. We must not forget that no body demanded umpire Benson's removal because he wasn't appointed to stand in upcoming tests. Hence it appears that only one umpire is targeted. Just like you wouldn't play an out of form player, having Bucknor in Perth would have done no good to him either. After everything that went on he was sure going to make even more mistakes under severe pressure and with potentially having doubts in his own abilities. It is sad to see a great umpire falling from disgrace like this. I wish he too had followed umpire Venkatraghvan's footsteps and retired at right time.

  • hmathews on January 9, 2008, 14:53 GMT

    Good article! Couple of things we are forgetting is that Australia are repeat offenders in the sledging business. Almost every country in the world have or had problems with Australia in the past with their highly offensive conduct on the field. They are masters at double standards. Until this incident, I truly was willing to overlook a lot of these offenses thinking that all these extra activities that the Australians do are a part of their aggressive game plan. However, this incident proves to me that they are classic cheaters, manipulators and cowards. Honestly, if the decisions had gone correctly in the test India would have won this test. I realise a lot has to do with poor umpiring, but if Australia had not exhibited the theatrics in Sydney, India would have tied the game. But that wouldn't give Ponting and Co. the much talked about 16 straight wins right? So they went about it the cheap way. So pitiful...

  • sultan_30m on January 9, 2008, 14:37 GMT

    An excellent article encapsulating the on and off field acts / antics of all the 26 (11+11+3+1) people involved. I feel the issue of Umpiring would not have been so deeply discussed, debated and deliberated and the tolerant Indian would have taken it in its stride but for the Bhajji Ban. Aussies never claimed to be gentlemen on the field and to expect them to do so is foolish. They play to Win and to do so at all cost ... but at the same time ensuring that they stay within the rules by pushing the line as much as possible. Saying that they cheated is thus technically not correct. Talking about the Umpiring, as stated rightfully stated, Benson was a bigger culprit and the guy whose head Indians should be baying for is that of the 3rd Umpire who had the television replays and still gave a wrong decision. What i feel sad is that this ground was the best chance in the series where India could have won a Test Match after muffing it up at MCG... and we were denied....but thats cricket.

  • Bilaljab on January 9, 2008, 14:35 GMT

    Hi, i think this article is fair, what i don't understand is whats the problem with referrals. i think each teams should have 3 referrals per innings or 6 per test match(if they don't use it in 1st inning they can use it in 2nd if needed) and if they r saying that the technology is not 100% accurate than fine if a snickometer can't detect an edge and 15 different angles can't detect the runout or stumping or if the catch has been grounded or not than benefit of doubt should give to the batsman. Also before this i was a big fan of australian team and ponting and i think they r a great team but after watching the match i have to rethink about that specially about ponting because the way he reacted after the match(no shake hands with kumble and yelling at a reporter) , how come he is so sure when the camera was showing clearly that the ball was grounded and clarke,how can u be standing after huge nick which was caught by the slip fealder.But i think removing bucknor was not a good idea

  • pkill on January 9, 2008, 14:33 GMT

    all onfield decisions should be left to the onfield umpires. if unsure the umpire, should consult his colleage at square leg. if both are unsure, the batsman should be deemed not out - because there is reasonable doubt. if the umpire makes a mistake, so be it. it's not whether a batsman's out or not, it's how the decision is handled. the players' can't always be trusted because they have a conflict of interest, so they should never be consulted. if the laws of cricket were strictly adhered to, and umpires were left to do their job, the spirit of cricket would remained intact. cricket is indeed only a game - not life and death - and can only be an enjoyable passtime for players and spectators if the laws and the chain of command is properly respected. all parties should think about honour, respect, and putting the game ahead of team, self and result. and this doesn't mean "walking", quite the reverse. walking is disrepectful to the umpire. in such cases, batsman should be "retired out".

  • jeev on January 9, 2008, 14:29 GMT

    Its still unclear, was it Bucknor's incompetency or something else that made him make those decision which obviously he knew will be caught on the television. Second after such a horrible umpiring day in day one, how could the umpires in stead of being more careful, they were more careless in taking decision .. like not referring to third umpire for low catch and in stead asking the opposition captain. HELLOOOO .. Asking opposition caption in crucial time if opponent is out.... its no brainier what the answer Ponting will give

  • Yankee_cricket on January 9, 2008, 14:28 GMT

    The key failure in the Sydney test was the break down in communication between the two captains. That Ponting should have reported the "bandar" incident before speaking with his counterpart is unacceptable. That Hogg should have been directly reported for his "abusive language" is similarly unacceptable. If we're going to add a rule here it should be that nothing can be reported to the match referee until it has been "discussed" and "worked over" by the two captains. Then, a "trial" takes on some true meaning and the resulting "punishment" can be swallowed by both countries. Let's face it. We're talking countries here -- not teams. The other obvious conclusion to be drawn from this test is that cameras microphones and Hawkeye simply must be used henceforth. With these technologies available to the TV audience, it has made the pressure on umpires simply too great. Bucknor's a good guy. He should be allowed to continue . . . BUT, with these tools at his disposal

  • DGRAINA on January 9, 2008, 14:22 GMT

    There was another casualty of the Test. Cricket lost a fan. Me. Staying up late and watching a match for 5 days and seeing all the nonsense is not fun at all.

    I refuse to watch any game again until ICC gives the teams the ability to contest calls made by umpires. Umpires are human and can make mistakes. The decision process is not easy for them. Bring technology in and let the best possible decisions be made. Do it at all levels of the sport. Other sports have embraced technology...why not cricket?

    Making the game fair and fun is paramount for any sport. I laugh at comments from people like Greg Chappell who claim technology is not perfect. Are human umpires perfect? What nonsense! We need to be able to make the best possible decision.

    Third umpire should be a panel of three umpires and not one. They should be match umpires too. Get rid of the concept of having one match referee.

    ICC fill make the job of umpires also easier with technology. They will less stressed.

  • Figaro on January 9, 2008, 14:20 GMT

    This will be my last comment. Both the display by the Australians when the last wicket fell and Harbajhan's barrel rolls when he dismissed Ponting were over the top. So is all the hugging and kissing when a wicket falls. It all started with soccer but it is time it stopped and some adult dignity was shown by all teams.

  • Figaro on January 9, 2008, 14:15 GMT

    As an addition to my earlier comments. Isn't it time that this nonsense of players "walking" was abandoned? Some players do it sometimes and some never and I doubt that any player does it every time. There should be a firm policy that the player waits for the umpire's decision in all cases. That might encourage umpires to give their decisions more speedily.

    Finally the issue of gamesmanship is not new. The word comes from the title of an English book published in the 1947 but it described a very old practice.

  • ExCricketFan on January 9, 2008, 14:12 GMT

    Sambit Lal's article points to yet another incident recently involving Clarke and the Aussies (Hobart: Chappell-Hadlee trophy) were a "bump catch" was claimed. How come the match referees did not bring any charges against the Aussies on bump catch claims, either at Sydney or at Hobart? During September 2003, Pakistan captain Rashid Latif was docked for claiming a catch, when the ball had touched the ground. He was suspended for five games -- effectively missing the entire one day series between the two sides. On that occasion, the match referee while handing out his sentence said: "As captain a lot of responsibility falls of Rashid Latif and he committed a serious offence by claiming that (unfair) catch which constitutes unfair play and a level-three offence of ICC code of conduct (offensive and penalties). Therefore, the Pakistani captain shall be banned for five one-day internationals." The match referee then was Mike Proctor! Why is ICC not uniform in handing out sentences?

  • whits106 on January 9, 2008, 14:10 GMT

    By far, this the best piece on the issues at hand. It is excellent to see such an unbiased opinion of it all. And one which make sense. I am Australian myself, and I whole-heartedly agree with Harby - he should not be found guilty because a few people whinge about it, there must be proof.

    And too the user "choo_for_twenty_choo" who wrote that India was unsporting as well... Australia had a SLOWER over rate than India, sometimes you're run up doesn't feel right and also, have you watched any cricket for the last 10 years? Australians have been doing circus acts after big wickets for years. And this is coming from an AUSSIE. Open you're eyes buddy, honestly, Australia aren't the goodie-little-twoshoes every thinks. In saying that though, India is still not perfect either..

  • Figaro on January 9, 2008, 14:06 GMT

    There are a couple of issue not dealt with in any comments that I have yet seen.

    First, as soon as it was clear to ponting that neither the umpires nor the microphones had caught Harbajhan's comments, if that is the case and we have no official statement to that effect, he should have kept or taken it from the third umpire - he should not have precipitated a situation where it was the word of Australians against Indians.

    Secondly, the criticisms of the Australian's appealing has been taken right out of the context of this and virtually every test match match that I have seen since the early 1960s. In all of those cases, there have been a large number of unwarranted appeals from every country that plays test cricket. Wasn't it only recently that Sehwag was disciplined for excessive appealing? The problem is this case was that the umpires were too often wrong or indecisive.

    Thirdly, it is absurd for an umpire to ask a player if a catch was taken cleanly. He should decide.

  • Fej21 on January 9, 2008, 13:56 GMT

    Thank you Mr. Bal. Your article has brought relief to one very depressed fan - days of reading slander, accusations and sensationalist journalism has turned the normally joyous past-time of following cricket into a stressful burden. This article was nothing but succinct presentation of fact and insightful and objective commentary - it is by far the most lucid piece that i've read on the entire debacle. Genuinely, thank you!

  • venkygoud on January 9, 2008, 13:48 GMT

    An umpire who has to make sure the game is playing in right way, capatain who need make sure he is playing for the pride of his country,( hasnt dont their job). how can you accept the match is won by australia. i accept that australia has got very good players but it doesnt mean every time they play will be a win. most of previous videos shows that there was sometimes mistakes can go, but it cant be in asingle match, so many especially charges against other players which doesnt mean to be a race, ethinic etc,. Always a true sporting spirit wins the game,who can give credit a good player. I can proudly say India has been palying atrue sport " as the words of Anil Kumble" there is lot of inner feelings of him has been converted into a single wonderful sentence. Australia has lost its reputation of cricket from years with one single game including captain himself.I dont know how much does it effect of sledging could be given

  • SanjivSanjiv on January 9, 2008, 13:46 GMT

    I agree the words itself are not offensive but the manner, circumstances and the context in which they are said. By the same token what was the context when Harbanjan was provoked to say the word 'Monkey' (if he has said so) by Symonds. To me, its equally bad to say something to a batsman to disturb his concentration and provoking him. Sanjiv Gupta Perth Australia.

  • Dave75 on January 9, 2008, 13:45 GMT

    Taking a fielders word for a catch, has always been a risky choice. Fielders aren't going to know for certain, if they are diving forward, taking their eyes off it for a split second if it carried. This is before relying on the fielders integrity. I am appalled by the way this whole saga has played out, more so by the BCCI than the Australian's. Bad Decisions are part of cricket. Let us not forget that India managed to get bowled out in 2 sessions. There were not 10 bad decisions. Is there no respect left for umpires? They are not as bad as Football refs at least. To ask for the dismissal of a loyal servant of cricket in this manner is disgraceful. Regarding Harbhajan,they are right to stand by their player up to a point. If he is still guilty after appeal,then they should be taking action themselves. Mike Proctor being, South African, knows the seriousness of a racism charge, and would not find him guilty if he thought he wasn't. He would get more than 3 games in that county.

  • rishu on January 9, 2008, 13:44 GMT

    The questions raised by Sambit Bal are really genuine & needs a lot of attention for the cricket fans as well as the different cricket boards.Its really hard for me to understand that why do the umpires reject the offer of modern techniques & rely on their self-conscience.I do feel sorry for Bucknor, for once he was considered as the most reliable & trusted umpire without letting the pressure get over him in any tense match, but he is not the same now.He could have avoided all this controversial incidents if he would have referred the dubious decision to 3rd Umpire, for all this wrong done he has to blame himself.Now coming to the point of relying on fielder's word is totally rubbish & makes the game be the loser.How can u trust someone in the heat of the pressure when they had been playing for 5 long days & the result in their favour would fetch them a record to be cherished for ever, and that too its being used when u have modern gadgets & cameras all around the Ground.

  • krazie_spin on January 9, 2008, 13:24 GMT

    Excellent article, nice and fair.During all the controversies surrounding the issue, I don't understand why nobody is questioning the process in which players are given out. Bucknor and Benson have been criticized, but I feel ICC need to revise the rule on onfield umpires. Either captains should be allowed to challenge certain number of decisions or third umpire should be allowed to overturn decisions that are fairly obvious. Why doesn't ICC review the tried and tested formula when it's failed constantly?

  • BapiDas on January 9, 2008, 13:21 GMT

    The ONLY honorable way forward for Team India is to play out of their skins and beat the Aussies in their own backyard! The acrimonious events at SCG has brought one good thing - TEAM INDIA has never ever been so united! Now they have to clear their minds and play with their heads in all the remaining matches of the series. The bouncy wicket at Perth should not be regarded as a 'demon' and bowlers as well as batters must keep reminding themselves that they have the skills to be able to overcome the adversity and turn it into advantage. I know it is easier said than done but I have the confidence that the charged up Indians will show their steely resolve and play to their utmost ability.

  • pwhunter on January 9, 2008, 13:17 GMT

    The ICC and Mike Proctor have both set dangerous precedents. If Bucknor was removed due to "underperformance" why did the ICC state on Monday that they were "fully behind the umpiring team"? Ponting was well within his rights to report alleged abuse (and it's not a case of "they can give it but they can't take it" - all teams have an obligation to report abusive comments, maybe a few player bans might just move the sledging to friendly banter), but on the lack of evidence the case should have been quickly dismissed. It's time the ICC and match referees started acting a bit more professionally - especially if they are to be the public face of professional cricket.

  • spongebat_squarestumps on January 9, 2008, 13:05 GMT

    It annoys me that the India team are not also singled out likewise for unsporting behaviour and stretching the bounds of the game; timewasting all the way through (slow over rates, bowler run-ups stopped mid way, "wrong gloves brought out to the crease" etc) just to manipulate a draw; Harbijan's 'unsporting celebration' of Ponting's wicket in the second innings - did it REALLY need the full circus act in front of the members stand? etcetera. Sure the Aussie team may not have played the 'gentlemanly way', but please don't imply, as Kumble outright stated, that India was the only team that was playing 'in the spirit of the game'. Both sides were twisting any opportunity they had in order to exatrct the result they felt attainable; unfortunately in this game, cricket was the loser.

  • pwhunter on January 9, 2008, 13:03 GMT

    Finally an appraisal of the situation that I agree with! People forget that cricketers these days are professional athletes, and should not be expected to give impartial advice when the stakes are high. Umpires are being paid to adjudicate and they should do so - giving the benefit of the doubt if the issue is not resolved after using all means available to them. Hopefully someone will soon realise that spurious appealing (including appealing for known dropped catches) is detrimental to their own side - a professional umpire should not be cajoled into making a decision. A more subdued approach could suggest to the umpire that perhaps there was something that he missed - for example the Symonds stumping. Umpires make hundreds of decisions in a match and are bound to get some wrong - it's swings and roundabouts how they influence a match, but in general a good team or player will capitilise and a bad team or player will capitulate.

  • IndianGuru on January 9, 2008, 12:36 GMT

    It is time that the players forget what is happening in the cricket world and move on to playing cricket. If they are so concerned about the game, Indian players should take this as a challenge and beat Australia in the next two tests and level the series. This way, they can show the class of cricketers they are made to be. Regarding umpiring, I think there must be a panel to grade and assess the umpiring. All this talk about over worked is foolish. If you take up a job (to be an umpire in the highest level) you better do a good job. if not do not accept the assignment. Why not have a training and retraining programs for the umpires? How about an International Umpiring Academy? How about accelerated examinations and training to get more umpires in the pipeline to select the elite group? I do not see ICC doing anything along these lines? They are only interested in filling up their coffers and India is helping it being the wealthiest cricket board.

  • Sri-Lankan_Lion on January 9, 2008, 12:19 GMT

    Well said Sambit Bal, I like the final punch. Australians are amoung the best sporting nations let alone the Australian cricket team which has grown aroogancy in recent times. The crowd of Australia are the best. With the umpiring, I agree with you with some point but look at the bigger picture, umpires have the decision to turn the match as with the case of India. India is one of aggressive nations of cricket, therefore they should and have taken this matter seriously but it is shame that Bucknor's future is uncertain. He was legend I should say.

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on January 9, 2008, 12:11 GMT

    I think this is by far the most balanced article written about this saga. For me the two most sore points are:

    1) Rabid jingoism we are seeing on our TV channels here. One channel was even playing Rehman's "Vande Mataram" in the background while discussing this issue. For them Indian players are either martyrs or money-hungry mercenaries. There is no sense of proportion. 2) Also, Proctor might have set a dangerous precedent of going by the word of 3 opposing fielders against one lone batsman's voice. Fielding teams might find it easier to hold a batsman responsible because they all can gang up against the batsman.

    However, I don't agree that the standard of umpiring in India is poor. In the seven ODIs played between India and Australia S.Shashtri and A.Saheba did a magnificent job and I can't remember too many instances of bloopers and surely not on the scale as in Sydney. But why we don't see them ahead of Benson or Howell or even Bowden is puzzling.

  • elifant on January 9, 2008, 12:05 GMT

    This saga has shown that the ICC relies way too much on individuals without having fair and robust processes in place. It is easy to say technology is not the answer to umpiring errors, but has a real trial been conducted comparing humans to technology such as hawyeye or snickometer? Channel 9 says Hawkeye is not 100% but are human "elite" umpires better than Hawkeye? The Hawkeye website claims that it is better than humans. It is ludicrous that in this day and age, the proceedings conducted by match referees are not open to the public. How does a referee get away with saying that he made a decision that was balanced and fair without actually revealing the evidence? None of these problems is that hard to solve, but there has to be a will on the part of the ICC to look within itself and reform its processes.If they still dont look to solve these problems, one would think that the powers to be at the ICC dont really have the best interests of the game at heart

  • balbir2008 on January 9, 2008, 11:56 GMT

    An excellent, thoughtful and critical commentary on the situation. The dismantling of Ponting's approach to catches was particularly tellling.

    Harbhajan's behaviour was clearly unacceptable if the appeal is not upheld. Any punishment though should bear in mind the Australian strategy of getting under somebody's skin. Provocation is an appropriate defence.

    In my view, Ponting should be put on "trial" for how he leads the Australian team in the future. He no longer appears to have the Australian media on his side. Sledging in any form should be banned.

    In the end, cricket has been a loser.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • balbir2008 on January 9, 2008, 11:56 GMT

    An excellent, thoughtful and critical commentary on the situation. The dismantling of Ponting's approach to catches was particularly tellling.

    Harbhajan's behaviour was clearly unacceptable if the appeal is not upheld. Any punishment though should bear in mind the Australian strategy of getting under somebody's skin. Provocation is an appropriate defence.

    In my view, Ponting should be put on "trial" for how he leads the Australian team in the future. He no longer appears to have the Australian media on his side. Sledging in any form should be banned.

    In the end, cricket has been a loser.

  • elifant on January 9, 2008, 12:05 GMT

    This saga has shown that the ICC relies way too much on individuals without having fair and robust processes in place. It is easy to say technology is not the answer to umpiring errors, but has a real trial been conducted comparing humans to technology such as hawyeye or snickometer? Channel 9 says Hawkeye is not 100% but are human "elite" umpires better than Hawkeye? The Hawkeye website claims that it is better than humans. It is ludicrous that in this day and age, the proceedings conducted by match referees are not open to the public. How does a referee get away with saying that he made a decision that was balanced and fair without actually revealing the evidence? None of these problems is that hard to solve, but there has to be a will on the part of the ICC to look within itself and reform its processes.If they still dont look to solve these problems, one would think that the powers to be at the ICC dont really have the best interests of the game at heart

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on January 9, 2008, 12:11 GMT

    I think this is by far the most balanced article written about this saga. For me the two most sore points are:

    1) Rabid jingoism we are seeing on our TV channels here. One channel was even playing Rehman's "Vande Mataram" in the background while discussing this issue. For them Indian players are either martyrs or money-hungry mercenaries. There is no sense of proportion. 2) Also, Proctor might have set a dangerous precedent of going by the word of 3 opposing fielders against one lone batsman's voice. Fielding teams might find it easier to hold a batsman responsible because they all can gang up against the batsman.

    However, I don't agree that the standard of umpiring in India is poor. In the seven ODIs played between India and Australia S.Shashtri and A.Saheba did a magnificent job and I can't remember too many instances of bloopers and surely not on the scale as in Sydney. But why we don't see them ahead of Benson or Howell or even Bowden is puzzling.

  • Sri-Lankan_Lion on January 9, 2008, 12:19 GMT

    Well said Sambit Bal, I like the final punch. Australians are amoung the best sporting nations let alone the Australian cricket team which has grown aroogancy in recent times. The crowd of Australia are the best. With the umpiring, I agree with you with some point but look at the bigger picture, umpires have the decision to turn the match as with the case of India. India is one of aggressive nations of cricket, therefore they should and have taken this matter seriously but it is shame that Bucknor's future is uncertain. He was legend I should say.

  • IndianGuru on January 9, 2008, 12:36 GMT

    It is time that the players forget what is happening in the cricket world and move on to playing cricket. If they are so concerned about the game, Indian players should take this as a challenge and beat Australia in the next two tests and level the series. This way, they can show the class of cricketers they are made to be. Regarding umpiring, I think there must be a panel to grade and assess the umpiring. All this talk about over worked is foolish. If you take up a job (to be an umpire in the highest level) you better do a good job. if not do not accept the assignment. Why not have a training and retraining programs for the umpires? How about an International Umpiring Academy? How about accelerated examinations and training to get more umpires in the pipeline to select the elite group? I do not see ICC doing anything along these lines? They are only interested in filling up their coffers and India is helping it being the wealthiest cricket board.

  • pwhunter on January 9, 2008, 13:03 GMT

    Finally an appraisal of the situation that I agree with! People forget that cricketers these days are professional athletes, and should not be expected to give impartial advice when the stakes are high. Umpires are being paid to adjudicate and they should do so - giving the benefit of the doubt if the issue is not resolved after using all means available to them. Hopefully someone will soon realise that spurious appealing (including appealing for known dropped catches) is detrimental to their own side - a professional umpire should not be cajoled into making a decision. A more subdued approach could suggest to the umpire that perhaps there was something that he missed - for example the Symonds stumping. Umpires make hundreds of decisions in a match and are bound to get some wrong - it's swings and roundabouts how they influence a match, but in general a good team or player will capitilise and a bad team or player will capitulate.

  • spongebat_squarestumps on January 9, 2008, 13:05 GMT

    It annoys me that the India team are not also singled out likewise for unsporting behaviour and stretching the bounds of the game; timewasting all the way through (slow over rates, bowler run-ups stopped mid way, "wrong gloves brought out to the crease" etc) just to manipulate a draw; Harbijan's 'unsporting celebration' of Ponting's wicket in the second innings - did it REALLY need the full circus act in front of the members stand? etcetera. Sure the Aussie team may not have played the 'gentlemanly way', but please don't imply, as Kumble outright stated, that India was the only team that was playing 'in the spirit of the game'. Both sides were twisting any opportunity they had in order to exatrct the result they felt attainable; unfortunately in this game, cricket was the loser.

  • pwhunter on January 9, 2008, 13:17 GMT

    The ICC and Mike Proctor have both set dangerous precedents. If Bucknor was removed due to "underperformance" why did the ICC state on Monday that they were "fully behind the umpiring team"? Ponting was well within his rights to report alleged abuse (and it's not a case of "they can give it but they can't take it" - all teams have an obligation to report abusive comments, maybe a few player bans might just move the sledging to friendly banter), but on the lack of evidence the case should have been quickly dismissed. It's time the ICC and match referees started acting a bit more professionally - especially if they are to be the public face of professional cricket.

  • BapiDas on January 9, 2008, 13:21 GMT

    The ONLY honorable way forward for Team India is to play out of their skins and beat the Aussies in their own backyard! The acrimonious events at SCG has brought one good thing - TEAM INDIA has never ever been so united! Now they have to clear their minds and play with their heads in all the remaining matches of the series. The bouncy wicket at Perth should not be regarded as a 'demon' and bowlers as well as batters must keep reminding themselves that they have the skills to be able to overcome the adversity and turn it into advantage. I know it is easier said than done but I have the confidence that the charged up Indians will show their steely resolve and play to their utmost ability.

  • krazie_spin on January 9, 2008, 13:24 GMT

    Excellent article, nice and fair.During all the controversies surrounding the issue, I don't understand why nobody is questioning the process in which players are given out. Bucknor and Benson have been criticized, but I feel ICC need to revise the rule on onfield umpires. Either captains should be allowed to challenge certain number of decisions or third umpire should be allowed to overturn decisions that are fairly obvious. Why doesn't ICC review the tried and tested formula when it's failed constantly?