Aussies to ease India rift at IPL
Australian cricketers are urged to repair relations with their Indian counterparts.
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2008 08:45 GMT

Rival captains Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble may use the IPL to mend the rift between their teams [AFP]

Australian cricket administrators, coaches and agents say their players should use the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament to build bridges with the event's host country, especially as Australia are scheduled to tour India for a four-Test series in October-November.
Relations have deteriorated between Australia and India after a spiteful Test and one-day series earlier this year, when bad feeling between the two cricketing powers plunged to new depths.
Rivalry between the teams turned ugly during the Harbhajan Singh-Andrew Symonds race row and India's subsequent threat to go home early from Australia if Harbhajan was banned.

Harbhajan was ruled out for three matches for allegedly racially abusing Symonds during the second Test in Sydney, but his suspension was later overturned on appeal, before Matthew Hayden, Australian opening batsman, called Harbhajan an "obnoxious weed" on radio during the subsequent one-day series.

"The cultural mix is a huge plus for the game worldwide."

John Buchanan,
Kolkata Knight Riders coach
Australian captain Ricky Ponting, Symonds, and Brett Lee are among a large group of Aussies spread across the eight franchises in the lucrative Twenty20 competition which starts next week, with the Australians hopeful their presence at the tournament will repair the rift.

Neil Maxwell, a player agent who is also the chief executive of the Mohali IPL franchise, urged the Australians to end the bitter atmosphere that has existed between the two national squads.

"If the players are smart, and already I've seen Matthew Hayden extend an olive branch, they'll use this opportunity... to be embraced by their local community and then be appreciated by the broader cricket audience in India," Maxwell said.

"There's definitely a level of negativity towards Australian players en masse, but there's an opportunity for Cricket Australia (CA) to do something about it, and they need to use this opportunity to build or enhance their brand image during this tournament."

Greater understanding

James Sutherland, CA chief executive, said he was hopeful his players could remove any animosity by playing alongside their Indian rivals and also by spending time with them off the field.

"The potential is there once they all get together and communicate and understand each other better... "

James Sutherland,
CA chief executive
"The potential is there once they all get together and communicate and understand each other better, it can break down a whole lot of those issues," Sutherland said.

"It takes willing parties to do that and I would be very optimistic that our players would be wanting to take that approach."

Former Australian coach John Buchanan, who will coach the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, said bringing together different personalities and cultures would be beneficial for all cricketing nations.

"Players will get to know each other better," Buchanan said.

"That will mean there will be a greater understanding of how Australians play the game, how Indians, how Pakistanis, how South Africans play the game.

"The cultural mix is a huge plus for the game worldwide."

Improving relationships

Lee, who has a huge following in India, said the chance to play alongside his rivals was what attracted him to play in the IPL.

"People were saying that relationships between India and Australia weren't at their best this summer, which I don't really agree with," the fast bowler said.

"Yes, there was an incident here and there but everyone gets on well off the field. But this is going to strengthen the ties between Australia and India.

"If I'm playing alongside (India's Shantha) Sreesanth and (Sri Lanka's Kumar) Sangakkara and (Mahela) Jayawardene... it will give us a better understanding on how these guys go about their business.

"That's only got to improve relationships with every country."

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