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'Removing Bucknor was right thing'

Australia and India are blessed with some truly great players and it’s high time we let them take centre stage, writes Malcolm Speed.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2008 18:58 IST
Malcolm Speed
Malcolm Speed

I love the fact that people in India are so passionate about cricket and their national team. It is proof to me that the game is strong and that people have a genuine sense of belonging to cricket and also that cricket belongs to them. That has to be a good thing.

It means that when things go right for India, like during the inaugural ICC World Twenty20, the country celebrates as a group in a wash of colour and excitement. It also means that when things go wrong, the country mourns as one.

The events of the current series between Australia and India have triggered an enormous reaction in India and I’m sure the readers of the Hindustan Times have been keeping a close eye on proceedings Down Under.

In relation to the replacement of Steve Bucknor as umpire for the third Test, we recognised from the outset that the umpiring in the second Test was below the very high standard we have come to expect from our Elite Panel and we noted with concern the public backlash to it and realised that we could potentially have a serious international diplomatic incident on our hands.

By providing a fresh on-field team of officials for the third Test we have successfully defused the situation, at least for the time being, and so what was a sporting issue has not become a political crisis.

We could easily have been inflexible and gone toe-to-toe with those who were calling for Steve’s withdrawal, but instead we chose to adopt a more diplomatic and reasonable approach. And on balance, it was the right thing to do, for the game and for the series.

Nobody wants the focus of a match to be on the umpires but the reality of the situation is that if Steve had stood in the third Test, he would have been under unbearable scrutiny even before a ball had been bowled.

This would not be fair on him, on the players or on the spectators. We have now created an environment whereby the match can now be played without undue attention and added pressure being heaped on the match officials.

No team has the right to object to an appointment and the decision to replace Steve with Billy Bowden for the third Test was taken by the ICC alone.

Now, to address an entirely separate issue — the Harbhajan Singh Code of Conduct hearing. I do not want to say anything that might be seen as prejudicial to that appeal, but it’s true that the process is still ongoing and will run its full course.

Harbhajan has the right to appeal and he is exercising that right. The appeals process has been part of the ICC Code of Conduct for seven years so there is nothing new or unusual about that. We have appointed the very well-respected New Zealand High Court Judge, Justice John Hansen, to hear the appeal and the entire process will be carried out in an open and transparent way.

In all the time we have held appeals to Code of Conduct hearings, no side has ever refused to accept the findings of the independent adjudicator. Whatever the result in this appeal I fully expect that all parties will acknowledge the fairness of the process, accept the result and move on.

In the mean time, let’s try to get back to what we really want to — and that’s watching and enjoying cricket. Australia and India are blessed with some truly great players and it’s high time we let them take centre stage and remind us what they can do with bat or ball in hand.

(The author is Chief Executive of the International Cricket Council)