London, Jan 10 (UNI) Getting flak for knowtowing to BCCI diktats, International Cricket Council (ICC) chief Malcolm Speed today insisted that the ICC will not be held to ransom by India over the Harbhajan Singh affair.
The ICC had to fend off criticism that by sacking Steve Bucknor for the Perth Test and allowing Harbhajan Singh to play pending his appeal, it had caved in to Indian demands.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has threatened to pull out of the current tour of Australia if spinner Harbhajan is not cleared of racial abuse on appeal.
Moreover, India says its continued participation in the series is under constant review.
As Harbhajan's appeal could be heard before the end of the series, Speed, the ICC chief executive, said India would have to abide by any ruling.
''I am very pleased the tour is going ahead, there is a process in place for appeals and Harbhajan Singh has appealed,'' he said.
''India have signed off on the appeals process. They were there when all the discussions took place,'' he told the Times Online.
''We can't have one set of rules for the India team and another set for everyone else. We will follow the process and and I hope whatever the outcome all parties will be able to say they have had a fair hearing.'' There had been suggestions that Harbhajan's appeal could be delayed until after the series but Speed insists it will be held as soon as possible.
He claims the logistical issues of gathering all the required players to give evidence is the only matter of concern, denying suggestions the ICC may want to put off the problem until after the lucrative Test series is over.
The case will be heard by Justice John Hansen, the New Zealand High Court judge, at a venue still to be determined.
''We may have the hearing before the third Test. If not, we are hopeful we can have it before the fourth Test,'' Speed said.
Harbhajan was found guilty by ICC match referee Mike Procter, on the weight of evidence given to him by Australian players.
Neither umpire heard the alleged comment and the only other Indian player in earshot, Sachin Tendulkar, has denied it was said.
''The evidence heard by the match referee was the evidence of Australian players who say they heard this comment,'' Speed said.
''That is denied by Harbhajan Singh. As I understand, no other player was in the vicinity and no other player claims to have heard the conversation which took place. These are matters for the appeals commission to go into. There will be a full hearing and anyone who wants to give evidence will be able to do that.'' Speed has also reaffirmed the ICC's reasoning for replacing Bucknor with Billy Bowden for the Perth match, insisting the decision was made for the good of the game, not to appease India.
''We could have taken a confrontational tone but we took a diplomatic approach,'' he said. ''We have got an international sporting incident where countries are polarised. What we are seeking to do is avoid having that turn into an international crisis.
''We have taken away one of the points of issue that has caused this passionate response in both countries. If Steve Bucknor had been umpiring, commentators and public would have pored over every decision Steve made,'' the ICC chief said.
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