Racism row: BCCI may call off tour

In the face of the ongoing controversy, the BCCI has suspended Australian tour of Team India.

updated: January 09, 2008 15:09 IST
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In the face of the ongoing controversy, Team India has cancelled its travel plans to Canberra.

The BCCI has advised the team to stay on in Sydney and not to fly to Canberra for a practice match. BCCI sources told NDTV that they could consider calling off the tour if they don't get any relief.

The Board, which held a meeting at the New Delhi residence of President Sharad Pawar, said that the team will stay in Sydney till formalities on Brad Hogg and Bhajji inquiries get over.

Meanwhile, BCCI chief Sharad Pawar has strongly reacted to the ban on Bhajji, he told NDTV that to call any player racist is just not acceptable. He added that he doesn't want the credibility of the game to suffer.

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The BCCI boss demanded that order against Bhajji should be suspended, as ICC rules provide for this and Steve Bucknor was not removed from umpiring duties.

Pawar further added that cricket is paramount but India's stand on apartheid and racism is above that.

In the latest reports coming in, Cricket Australia has said that the tour to continue as per schedule. It said that both the Boards are discussing the issues regarding the Sydney Test.

The furious, top brass of the BCCI is meeting in Delhi on Tuesday, to discuss how to fight back against the ban on Harbhajan Singh and the bad umpiring in the second India-Australia Test at Sydney.

The cricket board will also officially complain against Australia's Brad Hogg, for insulting Anil Kumble. Bhajji was banned for allegedly calling Andrew Symonds a monkey.

After the meeting, Vice President Rajiv Shukla told reporters the BCCI has officially asked ICC to drop Steve Bucknor as the umpire from the next Test starting from January 16. BCCI's Niranjan Shah spoke to Doug Cowie, Manager of the ICC Umpires Panel in this connection.

Apart from the seriousness of the charge, one of the things the BCCI is very angry about, is that Sachin Tendulkar's word was not accepted by the ICC match referee, while that of three Australian players was, in finding the Indian bowler guilty of the charge.

There are also conflicting reports over whether the two Umpires who stood in the Sydney Test, Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson, will be allowed to officiate in any of the remaining Tests.

Team to stay in Sydney

The team, meanwhile, will stay on in Sydney on Monday night and will file an appeal against the match referee's decision to ban Harbhajan for three Tests.

The off-spinner will file the appeal as per ICC rules, and the BCCI says it will extend full support to him.

Earlier, Board Vice President said in New Delhi that BCCI will appeal to ICC to withdraw racism charge against Harbhajan. Shukla added that the BCCI considers the ban on Harbhjan Singh as 'unfair' and 'unacceptable'.

Harbhajan has been banned for three Tests for making racial taunts against Andrew Symonds during the second Test between India and Australia.

Match Referee Mike Procter upheld the Australian charge that Harbhajan had racially abused their all-rounder Andrew Symonds.

Procter gave a marathon four-hour hearing to Harbhajan, who denied the charge and was supported by skipper Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, manager Chetan Chauhan and media manager M V Sridhar during the deliberations.

Procter also heard Symonds, who was backed by Australian captain Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke along with team manager Steve Bernard, who attended the hearing to testify against the Indian spinner.

The offence

The offence falls under 3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct which refers to players or team officials "using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person's race, religion, gender, colour, descent, or national or ethic origin."

The appeal will be made to the Commissioner of Appeals and pending the appeal, the off-spinner can continue to play.

In accordance to the Code of Conduct, the maximum penalty that could have been imposed for this offence was a ban of four Test matches or eight one-day internationals.

BCCI's Chief Administrative Manager Ratnakar Shetty said it was an "unfortunate" development. "There was no evidence against Harbhajan so I don't know how they could arrive at such a conclusion."

When asked what the Aussies brought to the hearing, which resulted in a verdict in their favour, Shetty said "we are not concerned about what the Australians think."

Harbhajan Singh's mother is also upset with latest controversy and has reacted to the ICC's decision.

"It's not fair at all. My son wasn't the only one wrong and that's why it is not fair at all. They have gone to play there, and the other players should be punished as well if they have made a mistake," said Avtar Kaur, Harbhajan Singh's mother.

The off-spinner vehemently denied saying anything racial during the altercation. (With PTI Inputs)