Treat India as any other team, Ponting to fans

By Neena Bhandari, IANS

Sydney : With “racial abuse” and “monkey chants” making headlines during Australia’s recent tour of India, Australian captain Ricky Ponting wants to ensure that the cricket season here lives up to the spirit of the gentlemen’s game.

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He is urging fans at home to respect the Indian cricketers when they arrive in December to play a four-match Test series followed by One-Day International (ODI) series.

Addressing the media at Sydney airport on his team’s arrival home, Ponting said, “I’d like to see the Australian fans and public treat the Indian team the same way they would any other team”.

Unaware why all-rounder Andrew Symonds had been singled out by Indian fans, Ponting said, “I don’t think they should be treated any differently because of what’s happened over there. As far as I’m concerned this whole racism stuff is completely unacceptable in any walk of life, let alone on a sports field.”

Was sledging more of a media focus?

“It didn’t consume the team whatsoever. We really enjoyed the Indian tour. We played some great cricket over there. It’s always a hard place to win and I think the one-day cricket that we played was excellent. It was a satisfying result,” said the Australian captain, flying high on a 4-2 ODI series win against India.

While Australia has been invincible in Test and one-day internationals, they haven’t fared well in the Twenty20format of the game.

The wounds from the seven-wicket loss against India in Mumbai still fresh, Ponting told newspersons, “That’s something we’re going to have to improve on. When there is a World Cup in any form of the game you want to make sure that you understand the game well and you play the game well.”

“… there’s a fair bit happening around the world with that form of the game. The popularity of the game is amazing … it is going massive over there (in India).”

Australia will play a Twenty20 international against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground Feb 1.

Master spinner Shane Warne, however, believes that local fans won’t be taking revenge for the treatment meted out to Symonds in India. Speaking in Melbourne, Warne told the media, “Australian crowds are pretty good”.

The summer cricket season begins with Australia playing the first Test against Sri Lanka Nov 8.