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Cricket tour on despite race row

  • Story Highlights
  • India will continue their cricket tour of Australia after series of rows
  • Series hit by claims of racism, bad sportsmanship and questionable officiating
  • Their request to have umpire Steve Bucknor replaced granted by ruling body
  • Cost of calling off the rest of the tour had been reported to be $44 million
  • Next Article in World Sport »
From CNN.com's Gary Morley
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(CNN) -- Cricket's ruling body stepped in Tuesday to rescue a test series between India and Australia which has been plagued by allegations of racism, poor sportsmanship and incompetent officiating.

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Umpire Bucknor upset the Indians with a a number of his decisions in the Sydney test.

India had threatened to call off its tour after bowler Harbhajan Singh was given a three-game suspension for allegedly racially abusing Australia's Andrew Symonds. The side was also upset after umpire Steve Bucknor made a series of decisions which went against India.

But India's tour of Australia will now continue after the International Cricket Council (ICC) agreed to hear an appeal of Harbhajan's suspension and replaced Bucknor ahead of the third match, starting in Perth on January 16.

The ICC also decided that chief referee Ranjan Madugalle will attend the match to ensure good relations between the two teams.

No date was set for Harbhajan's appeal, but ICC chairman Malcolm Speed told a news conference in Melbourne Tuesday that he hoped it would be before the game in Perth. The spinner will be eligible to play until the appeal is heard.

The cost of calling off the rest of the tour had been reported to be $44 million ($50 million Australian dollars), with India to face a possible $1.75 million (A$2 million) fine from the ICC if the team pulled out.

The Indian squad remained in Sydney Tuesday and was seen playing beach volleyball as it waited for confirmation from the Board of Control for Cricket in India that it should continue the tour, which came later that evening.

India's next scheduled match is a two-day practice game against an ACT Invitational selection in Canberra starting Thursday.

Harbhajan was suspended after he allegedly called Symonds a monkey. He lost his case despite neither umpire, Bucknor nor Mark Benson, hearing his alleged remark. There was no audio or video evidence to back up the allegation.

India launched a counter-attack, claiming that Australian spinner Brad Hogg had racially abused an Indian player by calling him a "bastard" -- an extremely offensive term in India. The case against Hogg will be heard, separately, on January 14.

Several Australian newspapers reported that Symonds' spat with Harbhajan started when the Indian hit Australia bowler Brett Lee on the backside with his bat, and that Symonds stepped in to make his feelings known.

"I was standing nearby and when I saw what happened, I thought: 'Hold on, that's not on,'" said Symonds, who is of West Indian descent and is the only black player in his national squad.

"I'm a firm believer in sticking up for your teammate so I stepped in and had a bit of a crack at Harbhajan, telling him exactly what I thought of his antics. He then had a shot back, which brings us to the situation we're facing."

Indian crowds targeted Symonds last year when Australia toured the subcontinent. Spectators heckled him, made monkey noises and held up insulting placards, at least one of which referred to him as a monkey.

Harbhajan also reportedly referred to Symonds as a monkey during a one-day match in Mumbai in October, but the Australians made no formal complaint.

The Australian newspaper Monday quoted the head of the Sydney-based United Indian Association as saying that "monkey" was not considered to be a racist term in India.

"Considering that 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," UIA president Raj Natarajan said.

"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 Board of Control for Cricket in India lodged a formal protest about the standard of umpiring after the match in Sydney, which Australia won by 122 runs on a controversial final day, and requested that Bucknor and Benson not officiate in the remaining two tests.

The ICC initially insisted that West Indian Bucknor, one of the game's most respected officials, would stand in Perth. But the ICC subsequently backed down and decided to replace him with New Zealand's Billy Bowden.

"It is an extraordinary set of circumstances and we want to take some of the tension out of the situation," Speed said Tuesday. "It is accepted that Steve, and his on-field colleague Mark Benson, did not have good games by their very high standards.

"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."

Bucknor, 61, controversially gave key India batsman Rahul Dravid out caught behind off the bowling of Symonds on the fifth day when television evidence showed the player had not hit the ball.

He was also involved in three other decisions which went against the Indians, and gave Australia captain Ricky Ponting out leg before wicket even though he hit the ball.

Benson was also in the headlines for the wrong reasons after upholding Michael Clarke's claimed catch from Sourav Ganguly on the final day when, again, television replays showed the ball had hit the ground first.

Ponting infuriated the Indians by gesturing to the umpires that the catch was taken, continually raising his finger in the "Out" manner which indicates the batsman must depart.

Ponting insisted Tuesday in his newspaper column in The Australian that he and India captain Anil Kumble had made a pre-series agreement that in such cases that "the batting side takes the word of the fielding side."

He also said he was hurt by accusations from television commentators that he was a "dobber" for reporting Harbhajan's alleged abuse of Symonds to the match referee.

"When I heard what had taken place with Andrew I immediately informed the umpires and then left the field at the end of the over to inform our team manager, which is what we are instructed to do," Ponting wrote.

"Making this report is not something I wanted to do but something I had to do. I had nothing to gain personally from taking this action. I was doing the right thing by the game."

However, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter Roebuck called for Ponting to be sacked as Australia's captain.

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Roebuck said, "It was the ugliest performance put up by an Australian side for 20 years. The only surprising part of it is that the Indians have not packed their bags and gone home. There is no justice for them in this country, nor any manners.

"Australia itself has been embarrassed. The notion that Ponting can hereafter take the Australian team to India is preposterous. He has shown not the slightest interest in the well-being of the game, not the slightest sign of diplomatic skills, not a single mark of respect for his accomplished and widely admired opponents." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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