An effective use of props: Indian fans make their point
about umpiring with some local donkeys [AFP]
Angry Indian cricket fans have held street demonstrations and burnt effigies of two cricket umpires, blaming poor decisions for their team's defeat in the second test against Australia, while criticising a three-match ban handed to spin bowler Harbhajan Singh.

Indian media also reacted with anger toward Harbhajan's suspension after he was found guilty by match referee Mike Proctor of racially abusing Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds, and questioned the sportsmanship of the Australian team.

"Indian team, come back home,'' chanted dozens of fans in downtown Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, as they set fire to effigies of umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor.

Angry fans also came out on the streets in the western town of Vadodra and the northern city of Kanpur after India.

After the match, won by Australia by 122 runs in the scheduled second-last over of the day, India captain Anil Kumble accused Australia of unsportsmanlike conduct and the team's manager called for "incompetent'' umpires to be replaced.

While Australia celebrated its world record-equalling 16th consecutive test win, the Indian team fumed over poor umpiring decisions and Australia's attitude in the field.

"Only one team was playing in the spirit of the game, that's all I can say,'' Kumble said after the match.

Batsmen usually wait for an umpire's decision before leaving the field when they're out, but many think it is right to walk if the decision is obvious.

Andrew Symonds did not, and later acknowledged he should have been caught behind on 30.

Instead, he stood his ground and was amazingly given not out by Bucknor and went on to make an unbeaten 162.

Other decisions also looked to have been incorrect.

While the agreement between captains on the batsmen taking the word of fielders on low catches was also thrown into doubt by some contentious dismissals and appeals on the last day.

The Hindustan Times described the test with the headline: "Double whammy of horrific umpiring, unfair racism charge traumatise (Indian) team.''

"Sydney disaster: When umpires won and cricket lost,'' said the Pioneer in a front-page banner headline, while the Indian Express proclaimed "Team India c Benson b Bucknor.''

A burning issue: Indian fans vent their rage [AFP]
Sympathy from Australian press

High-profile Australian-based commentators also rallied behind India.

"India have been dudded. No one with the slightest enthusiasm for cricket will take the least satisfaction from the victory secured by the local team ... that entertained spectators, provided some excellent batting but left a sour taste in the mouth,'' wrote Peter Roebuck in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mike Coward, veteran cricket writer for The Australian national newspaper, took a more conciliatory tone, but criticised Australia's behaviour and the umpires.

"It is shameful this splendid test match, won in such a remarkable fashion by the indomitable Australians, has left such a bitter taste,'' wrote Coward.

"The standard of play often was outstanding and occasionally exceptional but the standard of player behavior was questionable and, at times, unacceptable. And the standard of umpiring was poor.

Robert Craddock said in Brisbane's Courier-Mail that "any fair-minded judge has to feel sympathy for the Indians who were completely dudded by the umpires.''

"At least six poor decisions went against them and don't be surprised, with their spirit broken, if they struggle to fire a shot in the final two tests of the summer unless that shot is in the direction of umpire Steve Bucknor. A draw was the very least they deserved.''

Bucknor's decision to give Rahul Dravid out caught behind on Sunday was condemned by most critics.

Former Australia captain Steve Waugh, who guided Australia on its record winning run between 1999 and 2001, said it was a "real pity'' that the test match "will probably be remembered for all the wrong reasons, and not for the outstanding quality, pressure and the excruciating drama it ultimately provided.''

Waugh said a racial exchange involving India spinner Harbhajan Singh and Australian allrounder Symonds, for which Singh was eventually banned for three matches, could have been handled better.

"Perhaps a better outcome may have been for both captains, coaches and named players to get together at the end of the day's play and work out a solution before they went past the point of no return, which now has the potential to affect relations between both countries,'' Waugh wrote in Sydney's Daily Telegraph.

Source: Agencies