M A I N   N E W S

Oz Tour On: BCCI
Billy for Bucknor, Bhajji back

Sydney, January 8
Controversial West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor was on Tuesday removed from officiating in the remaining India-Australia Test series and Harbhajan Singh was cleared to play pending his appeal against a three-Test ban as the ICC yielded to a strong Indian protest.

Bucknor was replaced with New Zealand's Billy Bowden for the third cricket Test between the two sides in Perth starting January 16. He will stand alongside Pakistan's Asad Rauf, who had been originally appointed for this game.

(The Board of Control for Cricket in India, before it began its' emergency meeting in New Delhi, informed Cricket Australia (CA) that the tour would go ahead, according to team sources.

(The Indian board softened its stance once controversial umpire Steve Bucknor was replaced by Billy Bowden and chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle was sent an SOS by the ICC to head for Australia and plaster over the cracks between the two sides.

(The two opposing captains, Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble, would be told in no uncertain terms that intemperate behaviour on the pitch or outside would not be tolerated from now on.)

The ICC also cleared Harbhajan, who was slapped with a three-match ban for allegedly racially abusing Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds, to play until a decision is made on the BCCI appeal against the ban.

Besides, the ICC appointed Chief Referee Ranjan Madugalle as facilitator for the smooth running of the Perth match.

“It is accepted that Steve, and his on-field colleague Mark Benson, did not have good games by their very high standards and we feel that given the added pressure and attention Steve’s presence would have at the third Test, it is better for the match and for Steve himself if he does not take part,” ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed said.

The fourth and final Test at Adelaide, which starts on January 24, will be umpired by Bowden and Rauf, as per the original appointments.

Madugalle has been brought in to assist in ensuring the match is played in the "best possible spirit”.

“The decision was made in the interests of giving the series a fresh start following instances of ill-feeling between the teams and some on-field umpiring errors that have been made in the series so far,” the ICC said in a statement.

“It is also designed to create an environment whereby the match can be played without undue attention and added pressure being heaped on the match officials,” it added.

Madugalle has been asked to travel to Perth in order to assist the Match Referee and the two captains in re-establishing an atmosphere of goodwill and mutual respect between the two teams.

Mike Procter will continue as match referee for the remainder of the series as planned.

Speed, however, said the ICC's decision to remove Bucknor was not influenced by the BCCI’s complain.

“It is important to stress that Steve has not been replaced due to any representations made by any team or individuals. 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,” said Speed. On Madugalle’s appointment as facilitator, the ICC CEO said the chief referee has been brought in to prevent any “ill-feeling” between the two sides during the match.

“We are bringing Ranjan in as a facilitator in an effort to prevent any ill-feeling that may have been present at the Sydney Test from rolling over to Perth,” he explained.

“Ranjan is our chief referee and a highly respected figure within the game. He will remind the captains and other players of their responsibilities to conduct themselves in line with the Spirit of Cricket,” he added. The ICC confirmed that it has received an official notification from the BCCI of its appeal against the finding that Harbhajan was guilty of making a racist remark to Symonds.

The ICC will appoint a Code of Conduct Commissioner to hear the appeal. The details of when and where the appeal hearing will take place will be released after the Commissioner is named, Speed said.

In the mean time, the release said, as per the Code of Conduct regulations, Harbhajan may continue to play pending verdict of the appeal being given.

“The ICC has a robust process of dealing with Code of Conduct issues and that process will now run its natural course,” said Speed. Speed added that Australian wrist spinner Brad Hogg had been cited for using abusive language and would appear before Procter prior to the third test. Local media reported that Hogg had called two Indian batsmen “bastards”. — Agencies



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