Ponting rejected Kumble's offer

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Canberra, Jan 9 (UNI) Indian skipper Anil Kumble today revealed that he requested his counterpart not to press racism charges against off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, after the third day's play at SCG, an appeal which Aussie captain Ricky Ponting rejected outright.

Kumble said, ''I had called up Ricky Ponting after the third day of the Sydney Test, requesting him to not press the charge of racism against off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.'' ''Ponting declined the offer and said wanted to see the process through after complaining to umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson at the end of the third day's play,'' he added.

Harbhajan was banned for allegedly making racial comments against Aussie all-rounder Andrew Symonds during the second Test at SCG.

International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee Mike Procter upheld the charge after a hearing on the last day of play in Sydney.

Harbhajan had denied he racially abused Symonds.

The 37-year-old Kumble also said that he harbours no hard feelings towards the Oz players, after the ill-tempered second Test which saw a lot of umpiring blunders which ultimately costed the visitors the match.

''It was only meant for the Sydney game, I have great respect and regard for all the players who play for Australia.

''It was just one of those incidents which everybody has seen.'' ''I think it's important to move on, cricket is larger than individuals and I respect that and it's important that we move on,'' he said.

''The focus for us is to ensure that we get the best possible out of this game,'' he added.

Controversy has engulfed the Indian tour since Kumble accused the Australian side of not playing within the spirit of the game during the Test at the SCG.

The suspension of spinner Harbhajan Singh for racially abusing Andrew Symonds added to the tension, and a complaint from the Indian cricket board led to umpire Steve Bucknor being removed from the Perth Test.

Kumble says the Indian team was shocked at the Harbhajan charge.

''It's been tough, it's been very difficult because it's a very serious issue. But I think the entire team is together on this,'' he said.

The incident has sparked off adverse reaction from commentators, former players and a even prominent sportsmen from outside the cricketing world.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland defended the Australian team, and says those critics of the team should have thought hard before they spoke out against the team.

''To some extent they owed Cricket Australia and Australian sport at least to make some enquiries to get some background, before they went out and made those comments.'' UNI XC TB BD1630

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