The furore over match referee Mike Denness' judgements on Sachin Tendulkar and five other Indian cricketers has emerged in the Indian parliament. Tendulkar's suspended one-Test sentence for ball-tampering, as well as penalties on his teammates for excessive appealing, were uniformly lambasted in the recently started winter session of Parliament on Wednesday.
The issue was raised, appropriately enough, by an ex-cricketer and current MP, Kirti Azad, who cited the support of 50 other MPs for his demand to withdraw the Indian team from the current tour of South Africa.
"I think the Indian board should recall the team if the ICC does not take the protest seriously," Azad told the Associated Press. "We need to protect the honour of our players, some of whom have been given the highest national awards." The controversy is likely to crop up on Thursday as well.
Azad, a member of the 1983 World-Cup-winning squad, said that he raised the issue because he thought the International Cricket Council (ICC) was reluctant to delve further into the affair of its own accord.
Sports Minister Uma Bharti, however, was more neutral, saying that she thought the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was capable of handling the issue appropriately. But she did say that the Sports ministry had asked for a report from the Board on the issue.
The emergence of the controversy at the highest level only reflects the prevailing mood in the entire country, known the world over for treating cricket with religious fervour. Protest marches in Kolkata, Mumbai and Bhopal have attracted huge crowds, with placards denouncing the ICC and Denness jostling for space with massive posters of national icon Tendulkar.
The Board is yet to respond to the ICC's statement that it will not prevent Denness from officiating in the Third test, which is due to start at Centurion Park, Pretoria, on Friday.