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    Indian team wants Harbhajan cleared first
    08 January , 2008
    Sydney: As the ICC prepares to schedule a hearing on Harbhajan Singh's appeal against the three-Test ban imposed on him, and which has been suspended for now, there is a strong opinion gaining ground in the Indian team that they should not play in the third Test in Perth unless he is cleared of the racism charge. 
    The players, who feel that Harbhajan is absolutely innocent, are insistent that this issue be sorted out before the third Test starting on January 16, according to reports emanating from the Indian camp late on Tuesday night. 

    The players welcome the removal of Steve Bucknor as umpire for the third Test and see the arrival of chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle as a good development. 

    The Indian team is aware that they could be viewed as a sulking unit for having stayed put in the team hotel for two days, dragging their feet on departure to Canberra and threatening to stop at nothing till Harbhajan is cleared. 
    But, the sources said, they are so incensed that they do not want to relent on the issue, sources said, adding they would await Cricket Board's decision on the issue. 

    Meanwhile, it was more or less confirmed that Indians would move to Canberra tomorrow for the three-day game starting there the next day. 

    The ICC had received an appeal by Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh against his ban, and technically placed him in a situation where he would be eligible to play for the third Test match at Perth. 

    The ICC has appointed Ranjan Madugalle to facilitate the meeting between Indian captain Anil Kumble and Australian captain Ricky Ponting. 

    Indian team manager Chetan Chauhan said that the BCCI welcomed the ICC's decision to remove Steve Bucknor from officiating in the series, and added that the BCCI's strong stance on the issue helped in getting one of their demand to be met early. 

    He also said that the BCCI was putting Harbhajan's case very strongly in front of the ICC and the removal of the ban would help in lessening of the anger and frustration among the players. 

    An appeals commissioner would be appointed within the next 24 hours by the ICC to look into the case. 

    Meanwhile, the ICC have taken a U-turn on their decision to retain umpire Steve Bucknor for the third and fourth India-Australia Tests to be played at Perth and Adelaide respectively. 

    ICC chief Malcolm Speed confirmed that Steve Bucknor has been removed from officiating in the series against India. The BCCI has instructed the Indian team to head for Canberaa to play a two-day fixture against Australian Combined Territories (ACT) XI. 

    New Zealand empanelled umpire Billy Bowden would replace Bucknor for the series. This was the first demand by the BCCI, which has been fulfilled, but the issue of Harbhajan Singh's ban still remains to be addressed. 

    Raj Natarajan, president of the United India Association, an organisation formed by NRIs living in Australia, has come out strongly in support of Harbhajan Singh Raj spoke to rediff.com from his home in Sydney where he has been living for the past two decades. 

    This is what he had to say:

    "If the comment was made to an African American in another context it might be termed racist. Not in this context. Calling Symonds a monkey might be considered derogatory but certainly not racist.

    It's too much for one word. I have heard Australians, the English and the South African cricketers use much stronger language on the field and they get away with it. 

    Pulling out of the series is too extreme a reaction. A lot of money is at stake. It will not solve the problem. I agree that the umpiring was inept and unbelievable and it looked biased because India was always at the receiving end. 

    The Indians put up a fantastic show in the first innings. We saw some of the best batting ever on this ground. Sachin, Laxman and Ganguly were very good. 

    Actually poor umpiring exasperated this whole thing. It would not have been such a big issue if India had won or drawn the match. India lost unfairly. It was like India was playing against the umpires and not against the Australians. 

    On the cricket field the Australians will do anything to win. For them the end justifies the means. They don't care what means they use and that includes cheating. They have the skills. They have raised the bar in cricketing skills; they should raise the moral bar too.

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