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Bucknor replaced; Harbhajan can play

BONDING SESSION: The Indians, leaving behind the controversies surrounding them, relax with a game of beach volleyball at the Bondi beach in Sydney on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: AFP

S. Ram Mahesh

ICC denies BCCI protest influenced decision; Indians relax at Bondi Beach

Canberra: The International Cricket Council (ICC) softened its stance on Tuesday, removing umpire Steve Bucknor from the third India-Australia Test and appointing a Code of Conduct Commissioner to hear the appeal against Harbhajan Singh’s three-Test ban.

The moves have allowed room for manoeuvre out of the impasse the incidents of the second Test had led to.

With the hearing unlikely before the third Test, scheduled to be played at Perth from January 16, India will have the option of selecting the off-spinner.

The ICC Chief Executive, Malcolm Speed, said, “It is accepted that Steve (Bucknor), and his on-field colleague Mark Benson, did not have good games by their very high standards and we feel that given the added pressure and attention Steve’s presence would have at the third Test, it is better for the match and for Steve himself if he does not take part.”

Neither Bucknor nor Benson will stand in any of the remaining matches.

Bowden to stand

Billy Bowden will replace Bucknor and partner Asad Rauf at Perth.

Bowden and Rauf will also officiate in the fourth Test at Adelaide as originally scheduled.

Speed denied, however, that the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) protest against Bucknor and Benson had influenced the decision.

It may be recalled that just a day ago, the ICC had refused to entertain a change in umpires.

“It is important to stress that Steve (Bucknor) has not been replaced due to any representations made by any team or individuals,” said Speed.

“The ICC remains the sole body responsible for the appointment of umpires and no team has the right to object to any appointment.

The decision by the ICC to replace Steve for this match was made in the best interests of the game and the series.”

Madugalle for Perth

The ICC announced that chief referee Ranjan Madugalle will travel to Perth to help match referee Mike Procter and the two captains re-build an atmosphere of trust.

“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,” Speed said.

“Ranjan will remind the captains and other players of their responsibilities to conduct themselves in line with the Spirit of Cricket.”

Drawing a parallel to the 2006 Oval Test, the only forfeited match in Test history, Speed said, “What we’ve seen over the last week is a lot of criticism of umpiring decisions, a lot of ill feeling. We could have taken a heavy-handed approach, a letter-of-law approach (as in 2006).

“But what we need to do is alleviate some of the tension focussed on this match. One of the things we need to do is bring in a new umpires’ team. This gives us an opportunity to move on.”

Judge to be appointed

Speed said a “very senior judge” will be appointed in the next 24 hours to hear the appeal against the finding that Harbhajan was guilty of making a racist remark to Andrew Symonds. “That involves some 10 players and officials,” he said.

“Some of them are in Canberra, some of them have gone home. They’ll be gathering in Perth ahead of the Test some time next week. I simply don’t know whether it will be able to happen before that Test.”

Harbhajan will be able to play pending the verdict of the appeal, which Speed confirmed would include re-telling of the evidence Procter heard at the SCG on Sunday night. Harbhajan had denied using the word “monkey” in Procter’s hearing.

Hogg charged

Meanwhile, Australian spinner Brad Hogg has been charged under Level 3 of the ICC’s Code of Conduct by Indian team manager Chetan Chauhan following an alleged incident during the final day of the second Test at Sydney.

Hogg has been accused of making an offensive remark to Indian captain Anil Kumble and vice-captain M.S. Dhoni during India’s second innings on Sunday.

The preliminary date for the hearing is set for January 14 in Perth.

The alleged offence has been reported under paragraph 3.3 of the 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 penalty for a Level 3 offence is a ban of between two and four Test matches, or four and eight one-day internationals.

Welcome diversion

Meanwhile the Indian team, under instructions from the BCCI to stay in Sydney until further instructions, kept itself occupied with sessions in the gym.

The ‘team-bonding session’ at Bondi, organised by trainer Gregory King, included a spot of volleyball, a trip to the life-guard tower, an optional swim, and a few stress-relieving giggles.

The move made eminent sense as it offered a change of scenery and an opportunity for fitness work. As Mike Brearley pointed out, few things so drain the mind as the confines of a hotel room.