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Monday, January 07, 2008

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.


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SoSuechtig, Burajiru