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Aussie team vows to respect opponents

cricket Updated: Jan 14, 2008 14:14 IST

IANS
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Stung by the widespread criticism of their on-field behaviour, the Australian cricket team on Sunday night sought the help of leadership guru Ray McLean in a bid to salvage their battered image. At the end of it, they have reinforced their pledge to play the game in the right spirit.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting and his men first a two-hour meeting before Sunday morning training at the Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) Ground in Perth, but waited until later to discuss the fallout of their behaviour during a heated second Test against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

Leadership guru McLean, who played a key role for Australian Football League premiership sides Geelong and Sydney, attended the second meeting.

Australia last week came under fire for not playing the game in the right spirit. Catching controversies, sledging and the way the team celebrated its stunning win provoked criticism from many quarters.

The ill feeling was strong enough for some to call for Ponting's sacking. It prompted the Australian skipper to call for a review of the pact the team signed in 2003 under Steve Waugh's leadership after an ugly incident between Glenn McGrath and West Indian Ramnaresh Sarwan in Antigua.

Australian batsman Michael Clarke welcomed Ponting's initiative. "One of Ricky's greatest strengths is that he always seems to bring things to the forefront, and he always seems to address the team when it needs to be addressed," he said.

"On big occasions, before the recent Ashes, after 2005, before the World Cup, he always seems to address us at the right time."

Australia's seven-point pact lists on-field behaviour, off-field behaviour, overall team pride, opponents, supporters, family and respect.

The bit about opponents reads: "We acknowledge and respect that our opponents may hold different cultural values and beliefs from our own, and value the diversity and richness this adds to the game.

"By treating our opponents with dignity and forging bonds of mutual respect, we will overcome any cultural barriers."

While they have listened to public opinion, it's understood the players agreed to maintain their aggressive style in the third Test that starts on Wednesday.

Ponting hopes his team's image improves further when he and Indian counterpart Anil Kumble smoke the peace pipe at a meeting to be mediated by ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle.

Indian coach Gary Kirsten, who arrived in Perth on Sunday before his first Test in charge, welcomed this initiative. "They need to tell the players, 'Listen, we are the custodians of the game at the moment and we've got to make sure we uphold this game and the passion with which it should be played'," he said.

"No individual is greater than the game. These are two great cricket nations that, as players, need to stand up and say, 'This is the way we are going to go about our business now'. I don't think for a minute that takes away the aggressiveness and competitiveness with which you should play."

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