Bucknor shown the door, Tour on, but issue remains same
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has finally chosen a leeway in the ongoing tussle between them and Indian Board for the moment. The ICC replaced Sydney Test, demon, Steve Bucknor and allowed Harbhajan Singh to play in the next Test in Perth, pending a final decision on him by an ICC panel.
The World cricket body has taken this step after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) intervened and lodged its protest to ICC and there were threats of boycotting the tour in the middle of the Test series.
Umpiring was one of the two issues India were unhappy with following that match, along with a ban of three-Test matches imposed on off-spinner Harbhajan. New Zealander Billy Bowden has replaced Bucknor, whose controversial decisions brought the touring Indian team on the losing end, for the Perth match starting January 16.
It's a kind of moral victory for the Indian team as well as for the millions of people back home, since the charge of racist comment laid down against Harbhajan cried foul in the entire country as it raised question on the integrity of Indians.
However, CEO of ICC, Malcolm Speed made it clear that it is not the case of ICC stepping backwards and the decision was not taken under any pressure
"It is important to stress that Steve Bucknor has not been replaced due to any representations made by any team or individuals," said the ICC chief executive, Malcolm Speed.
"The ICC remains the sole body responsible for the appointment of umpires and no team has the right to object to any appointment. The decision by the ICC to replace Steve for this match was made in the best interests of the game and the series."
Aussie spinner Brad Hogg has also been charged under Level 3 of the ICC code of conduct following allegations that he verbally abused Indian skipper Anil Kumble and his deputy Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Match referee Mike Procter will hear the complaint next Monday.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Ranjan Madugalle would be flown into Perth to serve as a mediator between the conflicting captains, Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble, ahead of the third Test as a second match referee.
But by bringing in Madugalle does not guarantee success, and he faced another obstacle in sorting out the issue, which is getting murkier day by day after the Indians lodged an official complaint into the behaviour of Hogg during the Sydney Test.
"I'm not sure we can have the hearing finished by the Perth Test but I'm hopeful we can have it finished by the Adelaide Test," Speed said.
According to Speed a minimum of ten witnesses are to be called and it would be made possible only before Adelaide Test as it begins on January 24. He admitted that it seemed a good time frame for India but that's the way it happens as these things take some time to organise.
The tour is back on, for now, as the Indian squad left Sydney for Canberra on Wednesday, two days after the schedule departure, for a tour match against an Australian Capital Territory XI.
If a re-hearing of Harbhajan's case sustains the same three-match suspension, the tour could well be in jeopardy since BCCI is monitoring the tour and all the other developments continuously from close quarters.
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