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Mali affirms independence of ICC processes

Dubai, Jan 9 (UNI) After getting flak for bowing to the pressure exerted by the Indian Board, ICC today affirmed the independence of its match official appointments and the Code of Conduct processes.

International Cricket Council (ICC) President Ray Mali explained the decision to replace Steve Bucknor as umpire for the third Test between Australia and India in Perth on the grounds that it was a practical solution that has helped to avoid a possible diplomatic incident.

''We recognised from the outset that the umpiring in the second Test was below the very high standard we have come to expect from our Elite Panel and we noted with concern the enormous reaction to it and realised that we could potentially have a serious international diplomatic incident on our hands,'' Mali said.

''By standing Steve down for the third Test we have successfully defused the situation, at least for the time being, and so what was a sporting issue has not become a political crisis,'' he said.

The ICC gave in to BCCI's demands to remove umpire Steve Bucknor for the third Test between India and Australia in Perth, after the 61-year-old Jamaican made a series of umpiring blunder in the second Test in Sydney, which costed the visitors the match.

''We could easily have taken an inflexible stance and gone toe-to-toe with those who were calling for Steve's withdrawal but instead we chose to adopt a more diplomatic and reasonable approach.

And on balance it was the right thing to do, for the game and for the series.

''It is important to point out that no team has the right the object to any umpire appointment and this decision was taken entirely by the ICC for the best interests of cricket,'' Mali said.

''The series now has a fresh start and the umpires who stand in the third and fourth Tests can do their jobs without undue attention on them and the world will be able to focus on the thrilling batting, bowling and fielding of these two great cricket sides.

''It is also worth reminding people that the decision to replace Steve for this match had nothing to do with the Harbhajan Singh Code of Conduct hearing. That process is ongoing and will run its full course.

''As is his right, Harbhajan has appealed the guilty finding of the hearing. The appeals process has been part of the ICC Code of Conduct for seven years so there is nothing new or unusual about this,'' the ICC CEO said.

India had threatened to end its tour of Australia if suspended spinner Harbhajan Singh didn't have his three-Test ban for racist comments overturned.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has appealed against Harbhajan's ban, clearing the bowler to play until the outcome of that hearing.

The ICC also appointed a Code of Conduct commissioner to oversee an appeal against Harbhajan Singh's three-match ban for racial abuse of Australia's Andrew Symonds, freeing the spinner to play on pending the appeal's outcome.

''We have appointed the eminent New Zealand High Court Judge, Justice John Hansen, to hear the appeal and the entire process will be carried out in an open and transparent way. No one will be able to complain that it was not a fair and impartial process.

''On every previous occasion over the years that we have had an appeal to a Code of Conduct hearing, all parties have accepted the finding of the independent arbiter. I expect all parties to respect the process on this occasion too.

''Over the past few days there have been too many emotive comments from too many people and it's now time for the focus to return to the cricket,'' Mali said.


Story first published: Wednesday, January 9, 2008, 21:16 [IST]
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