An Australian newspaper's lopsided effort to show that Indian cricketers are the worst-behaved in the game was on Sunday rubbished as misleading by Kapil Dev and some other former stars.
Even as Ricky Ponting and his team continued to face a barrage of criticism at home and abroad for their on-field conduct, Sydney's The Sunday Telegraph used ICC data to claim that it was in fact the Indian cricketers who were the worst-behaved.
The Indians had faced action in 43 cases, the maximum for any team, followed by Pakistan with 39 cases, South Africa with 27 and Australia 25 penalties by the ICC since 1997, the newspaper reported but the Indians see these figures as lopsided and misleading.
The Indians point out that the Australians are universally acknowledged as the big bullies in the game and most of the teams have been at the receiving end of their foul behaviour. India, Pakistan and the West Indies are the worst sufferers.
Moreover, the fact that there are more cases of penalties against India only highlights what angered the Indian team in the Sydney Test. The Match Referee Mike Procter accepted the Australian complaint against Harbhajan Singh without any evidence. The same Procter had imposed a five-match ban on former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif for wrongly claiming a catch but a similar case involving Ponting in the Sydney Test went unpunished.
Reacting to the report, former India captain Kapil Dev said, "For the last 40 years, India has been the best-behaved team on and off the field. The players have always played in the true spirit of the game.
"As far as I know, the Australians were the first one to indulge in sledging in international cricket. And now that they are complaining, India is being penalised for no fault of theirs," Kapil said.
"This type of penalising players when they are not at fault will lead to an unpleasant situation. Cricket will get worse," felt the World Cup winning captain.
During the last 10 years cited in the Australian report, India has played 488 matches -- combining Test, ODIS and Twenty20 -- compared to 450 played by Australia.
Former opener and coach Anshuman Gaekwad too was aghast by the Australian report. "India is the most cultured team in international cricket and it is also the most educated team.
"Some of the teams are not so educated and it reflects on their on-field conduct. This statistics does not reflect the Indian team's conduct," he said. "Some of the umpiring has invariably been biased against India and the verdict has often been unfair. I do not believe that the Indians are the worst behaved on the field," Gaekwad said.
Former spinner Erapalli Prasanna said India had an impeccable track record and their sportsmanship was unquestionable. "I think the Aussies are talking through their hat," Prasanna said.
"Ever since India has been playing cricket, they are known for their impeccable behaviour on and off the field. Never have they contested any decision, nor have they ever believed in sledging.
"The Indians have always believed on performance and never compromised on their conduct. The only time we made a hue and cry was during the John Lever incident in Delhi. But even then we played the game in the true spirit," he said.
The allegations levelled at the Indian team leaves Prasanna upset and the spin great said, "I'm disappointed with the Australian media reports about the India behaviour. No one is bigger than cricket, what remains is the performance."