Aussie Test series hit by race row

Caught up: Match referee Mike Procter. © Unknown
Caught up: Match referee Mike Procter. © Unknown

SYDNEY - Fans in India have been burning images from the Sydney Test and India has suspended its cricket tour of Australia.

SYDNEY - Fans in India have been burning images from the Sydney Test and India has suspended its cricket tour of Australia.

This pending the outcome of an appeal against a three-match ban handed to spin bowler Harbhajan Singh.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has told its players to stay in Sydney rather than travel to Canberra for a tour match on Thursday.

Harbhajan was banned for allegedly making a racist remark during their tempestuous defeat to Australia in the second Test.

He was found guilty of breaching the players' code of conduct.

The International Cricket Council held a four-hour hearing after the Test finished on Sunday, finally announcing their verdict deep into the night in Australia.

Australia's players had claimed that Harbhajan called Australia's Andrew Symonds a "monkey" during an on-field incident.

Match referee Mike Procter said he was satisfied Harbhajan had used the word - though neither of the two umpires heard the remarks - and that "he meant it to offend on the basis of Symonds' race or ethnic origin".

All-rounder Symonds, 32, is the only non-white player in the Australian side.

The BCCI's statement said: "The Indian Board realises the game of cricket is paramount but so too is the honour of the Indian team and for that matter every Indian."

The ICC says it has a zero-tolerance policy towards racism.

Former England captain Tony Greig said a bitter rivalry between Australia and India had developed over recent series, and that players had been warned to be careful about what they said.

Greig told the BBC: "Australians are no angels - you only have to speak to some Indians and some Sri Lankans to know they have dished out plenty themselves.

"That's why India are saying: 'Who are the Australians to talk on this issue?'

"But that's no excuse for what happened and everyone's on notice. This has grown over a period of time."

The third Test between Australia and India is due to begin in Perth on 16 January.

India have reacted to Harbhajan's ban by lodging their own complaint against Australia's Brad Hogg for allegedly making an abusive comment to one of their players, according to some reports.

Harbhajan is the first player punished for a racist remark since South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs was suspended for three matches in January 2007. He was caught on a stump microphone talking about Pakistan fans.

In 2003, Australia's Darren Lehmann was suspended for five one-day matches after he was found guilty of shouting a "racially-motivated obscenity" in a match against Sri Lanka. - BBC