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New umpiring team will alleviate tension: Speed

While stressing that the ICC needs to be flexible, the ICC chief admits that the presence of Bucknor had become a "constant aggravation", reports Kadambari Murali.

cricket Updated: Jan 08, 2008 23:48 IST
Kadambari Murali

By Tuesday evening here, hours ahead of the BCCI working committee meeting in New Delhi, it was clear that the team management expected to be travelling to Canberra on the morrow.



All around the team hotel lobby, players - engrossed in figuring out important questions like where to find good food and how to spend a last evening in Sydney - were being advised to keep their stuff packed and ready, as "the news from India would come in the middle of the night and they would be informed in the morning of the decision and have no time to pack then."



If all goes well and no more unexpected developments take place over the next few hours, the Indian team should re-start its cricketing tour of Australia 48 hours after it was so dramatically put on hold.



Every now and then over Tuesday evening, any Indian player you ran into would ask the same question, "Any more news?" And invariably, there would be some. Some had tuned in to watch the live telecast of ICC chief Malcolm Speed's press conference from Melbourne and already knew Bucknor had been sacked. Others, exhausted by their Bondi experience, slept off and woke up to the news and Speed's mollifying statement.



"What we've seen over the last week is a lot of criticism of umpiring decisions, a lot of ill feeling," Speed told the media at the MCG, admitting that the presence of Bucknor had obviously become a "constant aggravation" (to the team) and therefore, the ICC needed to be flexible.



"It's not unlike the situation the cricket world faced at The Oval in 2006. What we need to do is to alleviate some of the tension that is focused on this match and one way of doing that is to bring in a new umpiring team."



Despite repeated attempts, Bucknor, on his way back to the Caribbean for the moment, could not be contacted. Speed, incidentally, also clarified that Bucknor would stay on the elite panel, for now. "He is coming to the end of his career. What we are seeking to do is take some tension out of the situation. Steve accepts that in the interests of the game and this Test, it is better that another umpire substitute for him." The other development that caused a lot of discussion among players and people in the Indian camp here was the appointment of the ICC's chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle, as a mediator to handle the "strained relationship" between Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting.



"He (Madugalle) has a tough task ahead," said an Indian insider, adding that the general feeling in the Indian camp post the hearing was that the Aussie players, for all their flair and smart-talk, were somewhat "slow on the uptake".



While there is no doubting that the mistrust between the two sides is probably at an all-time high, the Indians are very keen to point out that this situation was created by the Australians. "This strain in the relationship was totally brought on by them," said an Indian player. "We tried our best to defuse the situation but their collective behaviour through the game and then, the unwarranted racial slur on Harbhajan led to this."



Players pointed to the fact that even after the game, it was Kumble who stood around waiting to shake hands with the Aussies, "despite the feeling of having been cheated".