Victory for India as Harbhajan in, Bucknor out


Sydney/New Delhi : The Indian cricket establishment won a significant battle Tuesday, as the International Cricket Council (ICC) not only removed West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor from the third Test beginning in Perth Jan 16, but also suspended the three-Test ban on Harbhajan Singh pending appeals filed by both the board and the player himself.

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The ICC will soon constitute a panel to hear the appeals by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Harbhajan.

The Indians have also filed a complaint against Australian spinner Brad Hogg for abusive language against captain Anil Kumble and his deputy Mahendra Singh Dhoni during the fifth day’s play in the Sydney Test. Tentatively, the hearing has been scheduled for Jan 14, two days before the start of the Perth Test. The charges are the same that were filed against Harbhajan.

After Monday’s standoff between the warring forces, Tuesday seemed more to the liking of the Indian cricket officialdom as they welcomed the ICC decisions, which will now pave for the tour to continue without further hitch.

The relieved Indian players looked more relaxed after the happy tidings and were at the famous Bondi beach, in Sydney, playing volleyball. They are expected to leave for Canberra Wednesday morning to play a three-day warm-up game at the Australian Capital Territory.

The BCCI officials could not have asked for more as the ICC has also asked its Chief Referee Ranjan Madugalle of Sri Lanka to join Mike Procter for the remainder of the series to ensure the Perth Test was played in perfect harmony.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said: “We are bringing Ranjan in as a facilitator in an effort to prevent any ill-feeling that may have been present at the Sydney Test from rolling over to Perth. Ranjan is our chief referee and a highly respected figure,”

BCCI president Sharad Pawar said the board was happy with Tuesday’s developments. “It (replacing Bucknor and fresh hearing on Harbhajan) was the prerogative of the ICC and they have done it. Our request to the ICC was to review it and they have done it. We are happy with it.”

Board vice-president and spokesman Rajeev Shukla hailed the ICC’s decisions as a victory for cricket. “We are happy with this decision and welcome it. This is not a victory or defeat for anyone, it is cricket’s victory.”

The Australian players returned to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to shoot for a Bollywood movie, Victory. The players shooting were Hogg, Brett Lee, and Stuart Clark, Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin.