New Delhi:The BCCI has given its chief Sharad Pawar unprecedented emergency powers to call off the Australia tour.
It emerged last night that senior Indian players are behind a push to boycott this summer's triangular one-day series.
Pawar told the Herald Sun the Board of Cricket Control of India had taken a vote to allow him personally to decide the fate of the tour of Australia if Harbhajan Singh was not cleared on appeal of racially abusing Andrew Symonds and his three-match ban overturned.
The decision of this magnitude would usually have to be voted on by the BCCI board, but so angry are officials that president Pawar - arguably the game's most powerful man because of India's financial dominance - can now make this call without discussion.
It's also a clear sign the BCCI is ready to act on the wishes of its senior players - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and captain Anil Kumble - who are fuming at recent events.
Pawar said the threat of axing the tour was real if the ban remained.
"Let's just see what happens, but allegations of racism against a member of our cricket team is not acceptable," he said from New Delhi. "After the meeting, we then will take action."
In response to the power vested in him Pawar said, "That is true but I will only use the power in support of Harbhajan for the rest of the country," he said.
Player anger was highlighted this week when the tourists stayed in Sydney and threatened to go home unless Harbhajan's appeal hearing was granted by the ICC.
While that crisis was averted, it's now understood Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble have told the board the team will consider pulling out of the one-day series unless Harbhajan is cleared.
This frustration was evident when Tendulkar sent a text message to Pawar this week saying, "Harbhajan is innocent and I can assure you on this. In this hour of crisis, the board should stand by him. I suggest we should play in Perth only if the ban is lifted."
Australian captain Ricky Ponting said last night he wanted to salvage a sporting series and hoped to meet Kumble to prevent any animosity in the Perth Test.
"He's had a little bit to say the last couple of days and I'm holding no grudges against him," Ponting said.
"I made that very clear to him at the end of the (Harbhajan) hearing the other night when we sat down at the end and I had a really good chat with him and the Indian management and the few other players that were there," Ponting told Channel 9.
"I said 'Look, this is not about us, this is a big issue in the game and I want to move on. When this is done I want us to play the best series we can from here on', and he agreed with that.
"It's not only about Australia, it's about how it's being seen in India as well, and as an Australian player and an Australian leader I want to make sure that anyone who's watching the game really enjoys it."
Ponting acknowledged he had to be mindful of how the crisis had been viewed in cricket-mad India, as he wanted the subcontinent to regain its enjoyment for matches involving Australia after three days of vitriol directed at his team.
An International Cricket Council spokesman said last night it was "possible" Harbhajan's hearing would not be held until after the Perth Test.
He would not be drawn on whether it would be delayed until after the Adelaide Test, a situation that would allow the racial furore to die down.
"It should be held within seven days of a commissioner being appointed but that can be extended depending on circumstances," he said.
New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen was appointed on Wednesday as commissioner for the hearing.
Pawar continued to vent his anger at an Indian player being labelled a racist.
"We fight against racism," he said. "Our country supported anti-racism movements in South Africa."
It's understood Pawar would have no hesitation in ordering his team home.
The Australian team has been keen for the past week to let it be known Harbhajan first called Symonds a "monkey" during a one-day match in Mumbai in October.
Australia did not lay a report then and Symonds tried to defuse the situation in a frank discussion with the spinner.
But when Harbhajan again vilified Symonds during the second Test in Sydney, Ponting decided it was time to make an example of the Indian.
The ICC attempted to appease the BCCI by sacking blundering umpire Steve Bucknor from next week's third Test.
But ICC boss Malcolm Speed is adamant the game's governing body will not be held to ransom over the Harbhajan hearing and has called for India to continue its tour if Harbhajan's appeal is not successful.
"Whatever the result in this appeal, I fully expect that all parties will acknowledge the fairness of the process, accept the result and move on," Speed said.