India won the first round in its war of nerves with the International Cricket Council on Tuesday, with cricket’s governing body announcing the sacking of Steve Bucknor from the Perth Test.
In New Delhi, the BCCI indicated a cautious de-escalation of the crisis. At the end of a meeting, the Indian Board announced that the tour would continue “for the moment”, but added, somewhat ominously, that its progress would be “constantly reviewed”.
<b1>It, however, iterated that the racism charges against Harbhajan Singh were “baseless and obnoxious”, and Mike Procter’s ban on him “unjustified and unacceptable”.
The ICC is still to provide a timeframe on hearing Bhajji’s appeal, but should the matter not be resolved before the Perth Test, he will be free to play, if picked.
India also won a second, minor, battle after Australian chinaman bowler Brad Hogg was charged for allegedly abusing Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the last day of the Sydney Test. Hogg, whom the Indians have accused of calling them “bastards”, has been charged under the same sections of ICC rules as Bhajji. The hearing is on January 14.
New Zealander Billy Bowden will replace Bucknor, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said in Melbourne. He, however, claimed Bucknor had not been removed under BCCI pressure.
“It is important to stress that Steve has not been replaced due to any representations made by any team or individuals. ICC remains the sole body responsible for the appointment of umpires and no team has the right to object to any appointment,” he said. “The decision was made in the best interests of the game and the series.”
Speed also announced that the ICC’s chief match referee, Sri Lankan Ranjan Madugalle, would fly to Australia for the remaining two Tests, even though Procter would continue to be in charge, and would hear the case against Hogg.
“His (Madugalle’s) only function in the Test will be to work with both of the captains, in effect as a mediator or a facilitator to make sure that the ill feeling that has evolved between the teams dissipates,” Speed said. “And that this Test and the following Test are played well and truly within the spirit of the game.”
In Delhi, BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla said the removal of Bucknor was a “victory for cricket”. He added that Cricket Australia and BCCI had a “very good relationship”.