'We are neither unnerved nor guilty'
I’d like to point out that someone clearly edged the ball to slips in the second innings of the Sydney Test, and stood there even when there was not an iota of doubt over the dismissal. He then claimed a catch that showed more than reasonable doubt and said he was 100 per cent certain it was clean.
At this point, a few days before the big Test at Perth, I can tell you that that behaviour will play a big role in my decision on the continuation of the agreement that Ricky and I had made before the series began.
We had decided that in the case of a disputed catch, we would take the word of the fielder concerned, if he was certain. But that agreement was based on the premise that come what may, whatever the situation, the fielder concerned would be completely straight on what happened. Now, there will obviously be a big question mark moving forward on that.
On the other events so far, I can only say that I spoke to Ricky that day and having heard from Bhajji and Sachin before that, I was convinced that there had neither been any racist remark made, nor intended. I asked Harbhajan why he started it and he said he hadn’t, Symonds did and goaded, he responded. But he insisted he made no racist comment.
Ricky, meanwhile, was just not willing to listen, nor see my point. When I offered to apologise as Bhajji’s skipper, it was only to smooth things over. At no stage did I admit that he had made a racist remark, in fact, I said he had not.
Unfortunately, these days, when someone apologises, it is seen as either a sign of weakness or an admission of guilt. I am neither unnerved nor are we guilty. In the larger interests of the game, if an apology could help build bridges and smooth things over, then it is better made than left unsaid because of egos.
In my book, it’s really important that when somebody is accused of being a racist, whoever that someone is, the charge is not made lightly, followed up just to prove a point and is not deemed as proven unless there is absolute evidence. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Bhajji’s case.
Then again, he is a colleague and I have a responsibility towards him as his captain and as a fellow Indian. It is a serious allegation, calling someone a racist. You are not just accusing a cricketer, but the ramifications of this accusation, unproven in the eyes of mostly everyone, were bound to be huge. After all, India’s cricketers are also the country’s ambassadors and by making such serious charges, without proof, it becomes a question of honour.
There is obviously a sense of outrage in the country. I cannot comment on what I thought of the proceedings, but the fact that we have appealed should make things self-evident. I’m really grateful for the overwhelming support the team has received from Indians in India and abroad, and from people from other parts of the world, equally upset by the turn of events.
I’m also really thankful to the BCCI for their unstinting support. They have backed us right through and are doing all they can to make sure the players will be okay.
We’re going to try and do our best in Perth, a place where no one expects anything much from us. We are disappointed that we couldn’t enforce a draw in Sydney. We had a great opportunity when Hussey and Hayden were batting, to try and restrict their second innings score, but Hussey batted really well to put the game beyond us.
Still, we should have at least tried for a draw despite that. We really need to get our batting in order. Too often, of late, we’ve struggled batting in our second innings to save a game. Here, we were three down at tea and then lost seven in a row.
Finally, it’s important that the game goes on. Cricket is larger than any individual. One of the reasons I have tried to put the game and other things in perspective is to ensure that we move on and play good cricket. I’ll do my best but it takes two to tango and ensure things move smoothly. I can only hope it happens.