Sydney, Jan.30 : Australian cricketers have reportedly expressed their anger over Cricket Australia bowing to pressure from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to drop the racism charge against Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
In what is now being revealed as a brazen act of provocation, the BCCI had chartered a plane to fly its players' home on Thursday had Harbhajan not been cleared of racially taunting Australian player Andrew Symonds.
Facing the prospect of a ruined one-day series and the loss of millions in television rights, sponsorship and gate takings, Cricket Australia caved in, reports news.com.au.
At a meeting yesterday morning, the Australian players were convinced by their board that the best way of getting a charge against Harbhajan to stick was to downgrade it from racism to abusive language.
This was initially met with fierce resistance by the five players involved in the hearing, who insist that Harbhajan called Symonds a "monkey" during the Sydney Test and were determined he be punished.
They still expected that a one-match ban would be imposed, and were dismayed when Harbhajan was just fined 50 percent of his match fee for using abusive language.
"The thing that pisses us off is that it shows how much power India has. The Aussie guys aren't going to make it (the accusation) up. The players are frustrated because this shows how much influence India has, because of the wealth they generate. Money talks," said a contracted Australian player, who refused to be named. "
India stepped up the brinkmanship yesterday by flying its one-day specialist players from Melbourne, where they are due to play on Friday, to Adelaide, so they could return to India with the rest of the side if the hearing did not go as it wanted.
With the triangular one-day series in doubt, Cricket Australia feared broadcast partner ESPN, which beams matches into 27 countries, would sue it for up to 60-million dollars.
Of immediate concern was Friday's sold-out Twenty20 match at the MCG, which authorities hope will attract close to 90,000.
Board of Control for Cricket in India vice-president Rajiv Shukla said: "Ultimately, truth has prevailed. India has always stood against racism. Cricket is the victor in all this."
Late last night, Cricket Australia and the BCCI issued a joint statement, saying Symonds and Harbhajan had "resolved" the issue and intended to move on. "Both captains also said they were satisfied with the outcome," it said.
Despite that, the grave faces of the Australians at yesterday's hearing before appeals commissioner and New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen told a different story.
They maintain Harbhajan is a repeat offender, having called Symonds "monkey" during October's heated one-day series in India.
In audio evidence from Channel Nine played at the hearing, Harbhajan cannot be heard saying "monkey".
But the Australians are heard remonstrating with him. "You've got a witness now, champ," Matthew Hayden tells him. "It's a shit word and you know it."