Cricket can never be friendly - Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, believes Ishant Sharma was provoked by Andrew Symonds into the reaction that earned the young bowler an ICC reprimand and fine. Dhoni also said the Australians had turned this kind of incident into an art form and that India would need to catch up.

"It's an art and they are good at it, but the Indians will learn soon," Dhoni said after India's comprehensive seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in Hobart that booked them a place in the finals against Australia, which start on Sunday.

Ishant was fined 15% of his game fee by Jeff Crowe, the match referee, for sending Symonds off with words after dismissing him in Sunday's game at the SCG. Though the Indian team management accepted Crowe's verdict, they also asked him to speak to the Australians about their provocative behaviour in the field. They even cited as evidence specific instances in the previous two CB Series clashes between the teams.

Dhoni, who wasn't in close proximity to either Ishant or Symonds when the incident occurred, felt Ishant had every right to do what he did, adding it was Symonds who started it. Television cameras showed Dhoni pacifying Ishant after the umpire Daryl Harper had cautioned him about the bowler.

"It's (provocation) been going on for a long time," Dhoni said. "We have to be careful about it and if they provoke us we need to mind what we say. Ishant just reacted to what Symonds said."

Dhoni, who had double the reason to celebrate today's win - his side's entry into the finals was confirmed as well as him completing 100 ODI catches - defended a series that has never been too far from reaching boiling point. "Cricket can never be friendly. As long as the rivalry never crosses the line it's fine."

Dhoni himself avoided an ICC rap after he was found wearing gloves that weren't within the regulations. The pair of white ones he sported came with a loop-like webbing that had been reinforced at the edges.

Law 40.2 states that "if the wicketkeeper wears gloves, they shall have no webbing between the fingers except joining index finger and thumb, where webbing may be inserted as a means of support..."

Dhoni said he had obeyed the laws and didn't want any further controversy. "It was close to the line of 'if the gloves were legal or illegal'. In the 100 catches I've taken only three or four might have been caught in the webbing. Otherwise, the rest I've claimed out of my glovework and my skill."