Harbhajan race row: Could it split cricket apart?

The furore over India’s Harbhajan Singh supposedly calling Andrew Symonds a “monkey” during the second test in Sydney is escalating in confusion and intensity.

On the one side is the ICC, the body that protects the wider game from its tax-haven in Dubai; the other is India, the obsessive cricketing nation that frequently airs intention, albeit not from the BCCI, of breaking away from the establishment with its Indian Cricket League and of continued desire for more control in the game.

It may seem like exaggeration, but if this not resolved soon, it could have the potential to not just damage reputations, but to be ‘the straw that broke the camels back’, and with it splitting the cricketing world apart.

The issue now seems to transcend the role of Australia in the row, and is now concentrating more on umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson, and match referee Mike Procter.

For now, India have lodged an appeal and Harbhajan is free to play until it is is heard, but politics is once again threatening the game.

India are once again playing the ‘unjustly treated card’ by saying that the umpiring and refereeing was totally unacceptable, as well as stating that Australia played the game in a manner that was contrary to the ‘spirit of the game’.

Meanwhile, Australia are baffled by the whole thing, with Symonds saying that he is “surprised” about the supposed incident because there had been “no bad blood” during the series so far.

As for the tour continuing is uncertain; however, India’s assistance manager MV Sridhar believes that the tour will continue, but said that “we will await instructions from the BCCI.”

James Sutherland, chief executive of Cricket Australia, also believes that the tour will go ahead after discussing the matter with BCCI President Sharad Pawar:

“Sharad Pawar, who is the president of cricket in India, has overnight made such commitments, so that’s good enough for me. We’re looking forward to Perth now.”

This situation does bear some resemblance to the South Africa v India series in 2001, where five Indian players (including Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar) were suspended for ball tampering.

In this incident, which lead to the infamous Unofficial Test at Centurion, the match referee Mike Denness was lambasted by the BCCI and incurred, according to then Wisden editor Graeme Wright, “the wrath of a nation.”

Except now that is, the nation that believed was being racially discriminated, is now the believed discriminator.

In the 1982 edition of Wisden, former New Zealand captain Walter Hadlee wrote:

“The International Cricket Conference [as it was then known] represents the cricketers of the world. Its future can only be threatened if members allow themselves to be involved in politics rather than cricket.”

This is what is in danger of happening. Effergies of Bucknor, that most unlikely of hate figures, Benson and now Ricky Ponting, are being burnt on the streets of India. A political row is brewing, and the BCCI are trying to remain composed by awaiting the official ICC ruling on Harbhajan. But for now at least, the Indians are adamant and once again feel discriminated.

Time will tell whether this could be that proverbial piece of straw.



Filed under Andrew Symonds, Australia, Australia v India Cricket Row, Comment, Cricket, ICC, India, Indian Cricket League

4 responses to “Harbhajan race row: Could it split cricket apart?

  1. Thomas

    Ponting’s captiency is a real stupid thing, we have ever seen in the history of cricket. If he still continues as an international player, it will be a big shame to Australian team.

  2. Jamie Brown

    This is just a spat between two teams that don’t like each other. India have completely conceded any moral high ground they may have had by now agreeing to play again on the condition of umpire Steve Bucknor being replaced. Well what has that got to do with the price of fish? I thought they were supposed to be taking a stand because they’d been falsely accused of racism by one of the biggest bunches of racists in world sport.

    If the accusations against Harbhajan are false, they should have stood their ground and embarrassed the Australians by walking off the tour. Instead they have agreed to play again on the basis of a totally unrelated condition.

    The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the row over ‘racism’ was just a red herring, and that the Indians were in fact having a sulk because they got a few shockers from an umpire who should have been put out to grass some years ago. Ah well, that’s cricket. Bad luck. It’s not like they’re the first team to have been on the wrong end of the ageing Jamaican’s failings in the last few years.

    In any case, who are they trying to kid that it would have made a difference? Have they not noticed that Australia have now won 16 tests in a row? They’re better than you, get over it. Oh alright then if you insist, but I’m also going to reclaim the 2006/07 Ashes for England on the basis that Andrew Strauss was wrongly given out in just about every test match. It’s clear to me now that our boys wouldn’t have lost 5-0 without this incompetent umpiring intervention.

    The ICC, who as we know are without question the most spineless governing body in world sport, have been only too happy to go along with India’s ‘compromise offer’.This is due of course to “the added pressure and attention Steve’s presence would have at the third Test”, and not to the enormous loss of TV revenue and massive P.R damage (possibly leading to further loss of revenue) that would be caused by a cancellation.

    Racism is a very serious subject, and discussions of it should not take place in the surroundings of playground squabbles such as this.

  3. An interesting discussion. Racism, the famous Austrlian sledging, poor umpiring, bad decisions well everything combined to hype a lot of interest in the test match.

    Otherwise it would gone down as just another victory for Australia 😉

  4. stuti

    I have ponting and symonds for whatever they plaed on the ground other then cricket. But i think the old and stupid so called mind game didnt work for them this time. After all the youth team of India didnt tolerated nuisense as the seniours did in the past. Coz there are some limitations to the tolarence power also

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