If Australia skipper Ricky Ponting had shown a little more sensitivity, an iota of the maturity that his opposite number from India has shown and perhaps, an understanding of the implications of what he was doing, there may have been no crisis in world cricket.
The Indian team here reportedly made every effort to prevent the ongoing emergency from becoming precisely what it has — the kind of incident that is testing the fabric of the game. Unfortunately, the Australians were not willing to play ball.
According to sources, India skipper Anil Kumble called Ponting up on the night of the Harbhajan-Symonds incident and asked him not to press for the charge of racism. Ponting (based on what Andrew Symonds alleged) had made the complaint to umpires Benson and Bucknor, who in turn had made the code of conduct violation charge at close of play on Day Three.
Kumble reportedly told Ponting that if Harbhajan had caused any offence at all, he was willing to apologise on his behalf as the captain of the team. The proffered apology was no admission of guilt — he was not saying that Harbhajan had done serious wrong — it was merely intended as a conciliatory gesture to smooth things over and get on with the business of cricket.
Kumble reportedly reiterated that things happened on a heated field of play and told Ponting that he well knew that Harbhajan had neither made a racist remark nor had intended any, and the racism charge was a serious one that should not be made like this.
Ponting apparently refused to see the point and was adamant that Harbhajan was a repeat offender, had made remarks in Mumbai (during the October ODI) and this time around, he (Ponting) would see the process through.
Kumble tried to reason with him, repeated that Harbhajan had made no racist remark, something Ponting knew, and no offence was intended.
He said it would be better for everyone concerned if they kept this out of the public domain.
But Ponting wouldn’t listen. Another attempt was made to convince the Aussies to drop the charge of racism, at Sunday night’s hearing, by all the members of the Indian Committee but to no avail.
“Apparently, Ponting was unwilling to see reason,” said a source, adding that Kumble was quite frustrated by the Aussie skipper’s inability to understand the sensitivity of the issue or its ramifications.
“He reminded Ponting, as did others at the hearing, that this went far beyond either of them and far beyond this Test, and the game of cricket.”
Apparently, none of the Australian players had a clue that the situation would explode like this or that it would lead to so much negative opinion on them as a team.
“The sad part is that the cricketers still don’t understand why they aren’t loved by all Australians, most of who believe in playing hard, but winning fair,” said our taxi driver as we returned from the stadium after India’s loss.
This conversation won’t help that image either.