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Monday, January 07, 2008

Harbhajan Singh was banned for three tests

BHAJJI BANNED: Harbhajan Singh has been banned for 3 Tests for racially abusing Australia's Andrew Symonds.

BHAJJI BANNED: Harbhajan Singh has been banned for 3 Tests for racially abusing Australia's Andrew Symonds.

Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was banned for three tests on racial abuse charges, but what is interesting to note is that it was an Australian player who was first to be banned in the history of cricket for racial abuse.

Darren Lehmann of Australia was suspended for five-day ODIs over a racial remark in the earshot of the Sri Lankan dressing room during the 2002-03 cricket series.

Lehmann shouted an obscenity during a triangular One-Day International against Sri Lanka in Brisbane — this after he was run-out in a match during the series.

But since then, the Australians claim they have been on the receiving end. During the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist accused his Pakistani counterpart Rasheed Latif of racial abuse.

Rasheed Latif was later cleared by the ICC of racism due to lack of evidence against him, but Indian off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh was not so lucky.

Bhajji was banned for three tests on Sunday night after he was found guilty of racial abuse for allegedly calling Australian all-rounder, Andrew Symonds "a monkey".

India has now launched a counter-attack against Australia by charging Oz spinner Brad Hogg with using abusive language during the second Test.

The Indians lodged a formal complaint during Harbhajan's disciplinary hearing.

The Indian team management says Hogg called some Indian players 'bastards'. Match referee Mike Procter has accepted India's complaint and a separate hearing will be held in Perth.

Meanwhile, controversial umpire Steve Bucknor has been removed from officiating in the third Test in Perth.

Bucknor and fellow umpire Mark Benson were responsible for a string of bad decisions in the second Test in Sydney that went against India.

Both the Indian team management and the BCCI lodged complaints with the ICC against Steve Bucknor, asking for his removal from the remaining matches.

India-Australia Cricket Tour in Jeopardy?

The Indian cricket team, scheduled to leave for Canberra today after their defeat in the second Test against Australia, were still at their hotel in Sydney after boarding the bus and waiting for two hours. They are reportedly awaiting instructions from the BCCI. The BCCI has filed an appeal against Harbhajan Singh's suspension, and stated that he would continue to play until the decision on the appeal.

The ICC might suspend the ban on Harbhajan amidst speculation that the tour might be called off after the controversies surrounding the second Test, and the three-match ban handed down to Harbhajan Singh after allegations of racial abuse. This would be a black mark on his career. The Indian captain, Anil Kumble, had earlier said that only one team played in the spirit of the game. Various umpiring decisions had also been questioned, and Bucknor been asked to be removed for the third test in Perth from January 16th.

Ricky Ponting believed the tour would go ahead. Cricket Australia quoted assurances from the BCCI President, Mr. Sharad Pawar. The BCCI would have to pay a $2.3 million fine if they cancelled the tour. The team's continued stay in Sydney has, however, been backed by the Board, at least until the appeal is filed with the ICC. A statement signed by Mr. Pawar noted in part,

The game of cricket is paramount but so too is the honour of India's cricket team and every Indian,...The BCCI is committed to protect the country's fair name. India's national commitment is against racism. Our national struggle is based on values which negate racism.

Bad umpiring makes IT good for Indian companies

 If Indian cricket's bugbear, Steve Bucknor, were to be ever judged in his umpiring with the help of computer software, don't be surprised if an Indian company happens to be behind it.

With its track record in software much better than in cricket, India now wants to benefit from the business opportunity from bad decisions. A string of software start-ups as well as the biggest outsourcing companies have developed solutions that can capture cricketing motions and analyse them real-time so that better decisions can be made if the umpire is inclined. At least, one software ranks cricket umpire on five grades of quality.

Bangalore-based Swantha Software Solutions, co-founded by former Indian allrounder Vijay Bharadwaj, made a sales pitch two months ago to Ross Turner, Cricket Australia's game development manager for its umpiring applications software 3rdEYE.

An company official said a demo was given and the decision is awaited. The ongoing India-Australia cricket series has erupted into a controversy after India lost the second test match from a strong position, which some attributed to bad umpiring.

"In the wake such poor decision-making, our software can definitely provide a solution to improve the standards in umpiring if given the chance," says Swantha co-founder Sanjay Rao. "Most of the times, the whole match depends upon the decisions of an umpire, like it happened in the recent India-Australia Test match. We can monitor these decisions using the 3rdEYE on a real time basis."

This software can aggregate all the data analysis at the end of a match and qualify the umpire's performance as excellent, good, satisfactory, poor or bad, the judgement being made without human intervention. "Using this software, we can judge how good the umpire is giving at decisions, especially during the crucial stages of the match," Rao said.

The software was used in the recent Karnataka-Mumbai Ranji Trophy encounter, where the local umpiring coach monitored the umpires' performance. The International Cricket Council (ICC) created a buzz five years ago, when it gave an order to Phoenix Global Solutions for its e-Cricket Pro software.

The plan was to use this piece of coding for umpire training. Phoenix was later acquired by India's largest outsourcing company Tata Consultancy Services. However, the plan seems to be simmering on the backburner now.

TCS's rival, Satyam Computer Services, is also getting into cricket software, estimated currently to be a tiny Rs 100 crore but set to grow exponentially. Satyam has incorporated a sports solution division and is researching for a software product.

"We are in the pilot mode for most of the software and should be ready to make a pitch to various cricket boards in another 3 months," says Satyam head of sports practice Dilbag Gill. Satyam is developing three different solutions for tests, one-day internationals and twenty20 matches.

"Cricket is a ball-to-ball game and therefore it makes it easier for technology to step in due to the gap (between balls) in the game, which in turn can allow for technology for repairing umpire mistakes in real-time," Mr Gill says. Chennai-based Meru Consultants and Technologies sees the umpiring community as a market.

Its software is already used to analyse player performance in Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, apart from India. Now, the company plans to include an umpiring add-on. "The weekend row over controversial umpiring decisions have definitely spawned an opportunity for companies like us to take to this sector. It will definitely trigger a market for this product," says Meru CEO P Sankaran.

India, Australia, cricket captains told to make peace

The head of Cricket Australia has sought to ease tensions between the Australian and Indian teams, calling on the captains of both sides to enter peace talks.

There is renewed doubt over the future of the remainder of the test series with the Indian side told to stay in Sydney and await further instruction, despite being scheduled to travel to Australia's capital, Canberra, for a tour match.

The Indians are angry about the umpiring in the second test and their captain has accused Australia of not playing in the spirit of the game.

Cricket Australia's Chief Executive James Sutherland says to some extent, Kumble's comments are understandable.

"It was a classic test match; it went right down to the wire," he said.

"Anil Kumble had a fantastic test match as a captain and as a player and no doubt he was disappointed in the end."

Australia-India Cricket Dispute Won't Damage Ties

A dispute between the Australian and Indian cricket teams over an alleged racist slur won't damage diplomatic relations between the two nations, Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.

India's cricket authorities are appealing a three-match ban on spin bowler Harbhajan Singh for allegedly calling Andrew Symonds, Australia's only black player, a ``monkey.'' The dispute may result in India cutting short its tour in Australia.

``Cricket has its ups and downs,'' Smith told reporters yesterday when asked about the dispute. He stressed his government is intent on pursuing stronger ties with India.

India is Australia's fastest-growing major goods export market, increasing at more than 34 percent a year over the past five years, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra. Australia last year agreed to supply uranium to the South Asian nation, subject to a civilian nuclear energy accord between the U.S. and India being completed.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India ``will fight the blatantly false and unfair slur on an Indian player,'' Niranjan Singh, honorary secretary of the Indian board, said in a statement yesterday.

Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble accused Australia of unsportsmanlike conduct after his team's loss in the second Test match in Sydney two days ago. Australia and India are playing a four-Test series with the third scheduled to begin Jan. 16.

No Problems

``I don't see any problems in the relationship arising from the Test series,'' Smith told reporters in the western city of Perth, according to a transcript. ``Australia needs to place greater emphasis on its relationship with India. In the course of this century, the emergence of India as a very significant power, the largest democracy, its relationship with Australia is very important.''

Australia's trade in goods with India reached A$11.4 billion ($9.9 billion) in 2006-07, making India its ninth largest trading partner, according to government figures.

Japan is Australia's biggest trading partner, with trade worth A$54.9 billion in 2006. China is the second-biggest, with the relationship worth A$41.3 billion in 2006.

Prime Minister John Howard's government, which was ousted in the Nov. 24 election after 11 years in office, pursued closer ties with India. It signed an accord in 2006 on defense cooperation and an economic framework agreement focusing on energy, mining, infrastructure development, tourism, education, entertainment and bio-technology.

``Australia and India, both through cricket and generally, will continue to have a very warm, friendly and strong relationship,'' Smith said.


Cricket tour on brink of collapse

Cricket tour on brink of collapse

India's cricket tour of Australia was on the brink of collapse on Monday after a damaging row over racial abuse, poor umpiring and unsportsmanlike behaviour that could undermine relations between the two countries.

Officials said it was unacceptable that the word of Sachin Tendulkar, one of India's most revered players, was apparently not accepted by the match referee, while that of three Australian players was. The BCCI said it would appeal to the International Cricket Council to review the decision.

India's refusal to let its national side proceed to the next fixture in the Test series presents the world's cricketing authorities with a stark display of its financial muscle. The size of its middle class television audiences has turned India into the financial powerhouse of world cricket in recent years.

The dispute followed a dramatic climax to the second Test in Sydney, which Australia won in the closing minutes of the final day's play. Australia had earlier staged a comeback when Symonds scored 162 runs, but only after a poor umpiring decision that should have seen him out for 30.

Anil Kumble, India's captain, immediately condemned Australia's victory amid charges of incompetent umpiring.

"Only one team is playing in the spirit of the game," Kumble said, invoking bitter memories of Australia's anger in the 1930s when England adopted "bodyline" tactics to hamper legendary batsman Donald Bradman and beat Australia.

"Unfair allegations of racism against our Indian player is wholly unacceptable," Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president who is also a senior government minister, said.

"The game of cricket is paramount but so too is the honour of the Indian team and for that matter every Indian.

"The BCCI is committed to protect the country's fair name. India's national commitment is against racism. Our national struggle is based on values which negate racism," he said.

The Indian team was due to travel to Canberra on Monday to prepare for their next tour match but were ordered to return to their hotel rooms after waiting on a bus for close to two hours.

The BCCI risks a fine of up to $2m if it pulls out of the tour and could be liable to reimburse Cricket Australia for any losses incurred.

Australia lead the four-match series 2-0.

Administrators accused of bowling a googly

Threats by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to call off the Australian tour could do more than sour relations Down Under – they could unravel the financial fabric of the modern game, Joe Leahy writes in Mumbai.

Sponsors, advertisers and the stadiums have hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the tour and even a delay could lead to losses and damage confidence in future tournaments. "No one realises the significance of this. This is not about a tour being called off, this is about cricket being hit in the belly," said Suhel Seth, managing partner for Counselage, a strategic brand management and marketing consultancy. "This is about a googly being bowled at the game by the administrators of the game."

In cricket-crazy India, the game is the main vehicle for sports sponsorship and is controlled by a virtual monopoly, the BCCI.

India accounts for about 70 per cent of the global cricket revenue and the business surrounding the sport is likely to grow.

But any move by the BCCI to severely delay or cancel the tour would have serious repercussions and could force big advertisers, to reconsider their approach to sponsoring the sport.

Monkey business? Symonds compared to Hanuman

FACE-OFF: Australian paper Courier Mail published this pic of Symonds with his face superimposed on Hanuman's body.

FACE-OFF: Australian paper Courier Mail published this pic of Symonds with his face superimposed on Hanuman's body.

An Australian newspaper on Tuesday published a picture of Andrew Symonds with his face superimposed on Hanuman's body, giving a comic touch to the racial slur furore in the Sydney Test.

'Symonds baney Hanuman' ran the caption on the photograph in the Courier Mail, which was beamed by some Indian TV channels on Monday night.

The photograph was published a day after off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was banned for three Tests after ICC Match referee Mike Procter upheld the Australian charge that he had racially abused all-rounder Symonds by calling him a "monkey".

Meanwhile, the Sydney-based United Indian Association (UIA) expressed deep concern at the ban.

The Australian quoted UIA president Raj Natarajan as saying that since the Monkey God is one of the revered idols of Hindu mythology and worshipped by millions, it is surprising it was considered a racist term.

Even more surprising is that the word monkey is considered by the match referee serious enough to slap a three-match ban on Harbhajan Singh, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him, as saying.

UIA members felt the Australian team behaved in an unsporting manner during their 22-run win over India in the second Test at the SCG on Sunday.

The UIA represents various migrant community groups of Indian origin in Australia.

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