Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Australian board hopeful

Cricket Australia will be devoutly praying that India pull their horns back in over the racism-triggered ban on Harbhajan Singh and continue on their tour of Australia. Though no such indications have emerged so far, tempers are running high in Team India and on Monday, the squad did not leave as scheduled for Canberra, where they are to play a practice match against an ACT XI.

Crowd interest levels have also been high for the first two Tests at Melbourne and now here, and a no-show is the last thing Cricket Australia will want at their headline fixture of the nation’s summer sport. Not surprisingly, therefore, CA chief executive James Sutherland on Monday averred that he was confident the tour would continue.

"There’s nothing to suggest that the tour won’t go on," Sutherland said. "Sharad Pawar, who is the president of BCCI, has overnight made such commitments, so that’s good enough for me. We’re looking forward to Perth now." Sutherland asked rival captains Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting to clear the air ahead of Perth but stood by the Australian squad and the way they went about the Sydney Test.

"It has always been the Australian way to play the game of cricket hard but fair. Tough and uncompromising is certainly the way in which all Australian teams have played no matter who has been the captain and this team under Ricky Ponting is no exception," he pointed out. And never mind Adam Gilchrist’s faux appeal behind the stumps against Rahul Dravid and Michael Clarke’s claiming of a dubious catch off Sourav Ganguly, the two decisions that decided India’s fate as they battled to draw the Sydney match. Kumble had harsh words for the opposition afterwards.

"It was a classic Test match, it went right down to the wire," Sutherland said. "Anil Kumble had a fantastic Test match as a captain and as a player, and no doubt he was disappointed in the end. To some extent it’s not surprising in that emotionally charged environment that he would say what he has. It is only appropriate in that circumstance for Ponting and Kumble to get together and to talk about exactly what differences of opinion there may be in that regard." On reports that left-arm spinner Brad Hogg was likely to face accusations from the Indians about the use of abusive language, Sutherland said: "I don’t know any of the details. "