PERTH – After days of waiting and batting, and waiting and batting, Chris Rogers finally got the handshake he had been craving from Australian cricket coach Tim Nielsen.
On standby since Sunday to replace Matthew Hayden in case the burly Queenslander failed to recover from a hamstring injury, Rogers has trained, and batted in the nets and for his club without any clue whether he would be playing or not.
But after Hayden’s run of 86 successive test appearances was officially ended in a pitchside meeting with Nielsen, skipper Ricky Ponting and trainer Alex Kountouris, Rogers was told he would be making a test debut on home soil, against India at the WACA ground today. Ponting confirmed that Hayden – who has not missed a test since 2000 – had not sufficiently overcome soreness in his right hamstring and that he was too great a risk to take into the match, where Australia chase a record 17th successive win.
“I am really excited at the moment, and hope I do the baggy green proud,” Rogers said.
“You couldn’t script it better to play in front of your home crowd, and that is something you will always remember. I probably thought maybe I had missed the boat, but also I thought there could be an opportunity.
“You never want to wish an injury on anyone, but there is always a chance that might happen. It is unlucky for Matt and I feel for him, but it is a great opportunity for me.”
A miserable start to the season saw Rogers miss out to Phil Jaques as the replacement for Justin Langer, in part because of an appendix operation which kept him out of action at a crucial time.
A mystery stomach virus then curtailed his action, but since returning, a Pura Cup haul of over 300 runs at an average of over 40 has again proved his credentials.
However, Ponting said it was an innings Rogers played against the Australians for county side Leicestershire, during the Ashes Tour of England in 2005, that had stuck in his mind.
“I was very impressed with what I saw that day, and this is his opportunity, there’s no doubt about that,” Ponting said.
During that knock, Hayden told Rogers he should consider getting out to aid the side. But yesterday Hayden said he was delighted for Rogers, despite his personal disappointment at missing the chance to complete a world record 17 test wins in a row.
“Obviously I am very disappointed missing this test match – it is going to be a really special,” Hayden said
Quickie Shaun Tait will come into the side, as Australia opted for an all-pace attack for the first time since 1992. Brad Hogg is the 12th man.
India’s coach-designate Gary Kirsten has prepared a document for the team to counter the bouncy track at the WACA where the conditions will be “mentally more demanding” for the batsmen.
“It takes a lot of courage to get into position on bouncy wicket to be successful. More than the technical it’s the mental side and I am sure Indian batsmen are aware of it,” said Kirsten as he faced his first press conference in India colours.
The former South African opener revealed that he has prepared a document for the Indian team where he has put down his experience of travelling to this part of the world.
“I have put together a document on touring Australia…It is how to go about doing it. There is a definite style of playing technically on bouncy wickets.
“At WACA, it’s a very tough cricketing environment. There is never an easy game and it’s mentally very demanding. But the Australians also say it’s the best place to bat. One needs to brace the challenge and give everything you have got.
“I guess it’s a case of looking at the glass that is half full and not half vacant,” he said. Kirsten believed that more than any other nation, Australia tests the character of a cricketer to the fullest.
“It’s a mental battle. When you come to Australia you could be sure they would leave no stone unturned. It tests you as a person, yes you got to have skills but it you can go by skill only up to a point,” Kirsten said. “You need to have a strong character. In Australia, you are fully examined.”
From what he has seen in a brief interaction with the Indian team, the visitors want to put the controversy of recent days behind and get on with the game.
“They are two cricket-mad countries, there is a lot of emotion flying around, lot of intensity. Whatever has happened in recent days has been sad. “The game has changed so much in recent years. It’s all about performance, all about winning and sometimes players step outside the line. “Sometimes under pressure you can make wrong choices. However, it is brave to stand up and accept it. At the end of the day it’s the players who can sort this issue out. They are the custodians of the game which is bigger than team, individuals.”
On India’s choice of batsmen for the openers’ slots, Kirsten said Virender Sehwag should open the innings while Rahul Dravid should go back to his reputed middle order position.
“I do feel there are specialist positions…Sehwag has just hit a big hundred and has the respect of the Australians. Rahul Dravid on the other hand has been hugely successful as a middle order batsman,” Kirsten said.
The Australian team made a couple of mistakes on the field in the controversial second Test against India, Australia captain Ricky Ponting has admitted.
The fallout from the Test, which Australia won by 122 runs, included India captain Anil Kumble accusing the Australians of not playing within the spirit of the game, while Ponting faced calls for his sacking.
The Australian team have received support from numerous other international players for their hard-nosed attitude to the game, though Ponting said the team had examined aspects of their behaviour and reaffirmed their pledge to the spirit of cricket.
However Ponting, writing in his column in Monday’s Australian newspaper, said there had been two incidents on the field that his side could have handled better.
“I know when I was given out in the first innings in Sydney I should have left straight away instead of hanging around for a few seconds, and I know I should not have lobbed my bat into the dressing room,” Ponting wrote.
“Michael Clarke also knows that he should have gone straight away too, after cutting the ball to first slip.
“He knows he did the wrong thing but at the time he was just shocked at how he had got out first ball.
“I believe there are no glaring issues we need to address, but when they are all added together in the heat of such a tense and dramatic final day, they caused a reaction, so we need to tighten up on how we play.
“We are very keen to ensure we get the balance of how we play the game right so we can focus clearly on another very big match coming up.”
Ponting said he was disappointed the result in Sydney, where Clarke took three wickets in the penultimate over to snatch an improbable victory, had since been overshadowed by the fall out.
Afterwards, India spinner Harbhajan Singh was banned for three matches for a racist remark, umpire Steve Bucknor was sacked from standing in the third Test and the Indian Cricket Board threatened to abandon the tour.
The third Test begins on Wednesday in Perth. Australia have a 2-0 lead after winning the first Test in Melbourne by 337 runs and the match in Sydney by 122 runs.
Even at this moment, the Indian cricket team bus is parked out the team hotel here and the Indian players are waiting to hear from the BCCI as to whether their Australia tour will continue or not. The players are furious about the events of the past few days, especially the racism charges on Harbhajan Singh and the three-match ban handed to the off-spinner on Sunday night.
The emergency team meeting this morning did not include the coach, the support staff or managers. The players wanted to talk about the dramatic events of Sunday night and reach a consensus on what their plan of action would be.
Most of the players were asleep by the time Anil Kumble, Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar returned to the team hotel after the hearing at 2:30 am local time. Many of them woke up to the news that Harbhajan was banned for three matches on racism charges. There was shock and disbelief write large on their faces as they gathered in the hotel lobby.
The team was supposed to leave by road by 10:30 am, but the time came and went. Even as their wives and families, among other people, waited in the lobby, the players had their “Council of War” in a room leading off the main lobby.
The players are waiting for a detailed written order from the match referee on what exactly all the racism charges were. A senior player told Hindustan Times in the hotel lobby: “After the initial heat of the moment when emotions were running high, we decided we would wait ad see what exactly the statement from the match referee was.”
He said that at this point, from what they gathered, the tour is likely to continue, but they were waiting to hear about certain conditions they had asked for. “In any case,” he said, “the decision whether tours will continue or not is not up to us, since the repercussions are bigger than cricket or this tour. The players are keen to play cricket because we want to play fair and square, and once things settle down in the next few days, we can go back to the game itself.”
Procter gave a marathon six-and-a-half hour hearing to Harbhajan, who denied the charge and was supported by skipper Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, manager Chetan Chauhan and media manager MV Sridhar during the deliberations.
Procter also heard Symonds, who was backed by Australian captain Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke along with team manager Steve Bernard, who attended the hearing to testify against the Indian spinner.
After the hearing, there was no official word about the verdict but sources said that the three-Test ban was being slapped on Harbhajan, who is fully backed by the BCCI and the team.
The appeal will be made to the Commissioner of Appeals and pending the appeal, the off-spinner can continue to play.
After the hearing, Sridhar had said that they had not ruled out returning home, but the BCCI later played down the threat.
Meanwhile, the Indians have also filed a complaint against Australian spinner Brad Hogg for using abusive language during the ill-tempered second Test.
The Indian team lodged the complaint against Hogg during the hearing, giving a new twist to the simmering feud between the two sides.
BCCI officials promptly said that they would appeal against the three-match ban imposed on Harbhajan. Board vice-president Rajiv Shukla said they had not yet received any communication from the International Cricket Council regarding the ban.
“Nothing has been communicated to us yet. But if a ban is imposed, we will appeal against it within 24 hours. Harbhajan will appeal and the BCCI will also appeal,” Shukla said.
BCCI’s chief administrative manager Ratnakar Shetty said it was an “unfortunate” development.
“There was no evidence against Harbhajan so I don’t know how they could arrive at such a conclusion.”
When asked what the Aussies brought to the hearing which resulted in a verdict in their favour, Shetty said “we are not concerned about what the Australians think.”
Harbhajan was charged under rule 3.3 of the ICC’s Code of Conduct that deals with using language or gestures that insults a person on the basis of race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.
The off-spinner vehemently denied saying anything racial during the altercation.
Sridhar said both sides were together during the hearing into the alleged racial abuse.
“We are extremely disappointed since we feel that there is no evidence against Harbhajan,” Sridhar said after the hearing.
The three-match ban came as a surprise for the Indians as both the on-field umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson had gone on record as saying that they had not heard anything offensive being said. The hearing was originally scheduled for Saturday but Procter agreed to a request by the Indian management to defer it by a day.
Harbhajan was charged last night under Level 3 of the International Cricket Council’s Code of Conduct following his run-in with Andrew Symonds at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The charge was laid by match umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor after the third day’s play following a complaint from Australia captain Ricky Ponting.
The complaint was made by Ponting after the 116th over of India’s first innings, prior to which Harbhajan is alleged to have made a racist comment directed at Symonds.
Steve Waugh used to complain when he was captain that Australia’s major achievements were always overshadowed by some sort of controversy. Ricky Ponting is unlikely to protest about the issues of race, umpiring and spirit of cricket taking the attention away from his team’s outstanding run of 16 consecutive victories, which equalled Waugh’s world mark.
Ponting’s main aim was winning the game rather than grabbing the record and the success was achieved with a gamble on Michael Clarke, who captured three dramatic wickets in the scheduled second-last over of the day. The 122-run win, which retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, was sealed with seven balls remaining and Ponting celebrated as joyously as during his Ashes and World Cup victories.
“My overall emotion and feeling at the end of the game was as good a feeling as I’ve ever had on a cricket field,” Ponting said. “Winning a Test like that, coming down to the last eight or ten minutes on the fifth day, any Test you win then is going to be pretty special. For us to be able to do it after a 70-run deficit in the first innings, and probably not play our best until the second innings, makes this win as good as any that I’ve played.”
India were on track to seal a draw with two overs remaining, but Ponting’s hunch on Clarke paid off in spectacular style. “He actually said to me when I gave him the ball: `I’ve got about just enough time to win us the game here.’ He’s always had a fair bit of confidence in himself.”
Harbhajan Singh edged to Michael Hussey at slip from the first ball of the over, RP Singh was given out lbw by Mark Benson to the next delivery and the match ended when Ishant Sharma prodded to Hussey. “The last 30 or 40 minutes were about gambling, about rolling the dice,” Ponting said. “I tried most guys there in that last hour and a half. I had to do that just to see who the batsmen would find the hardest to play at that time. It looked like the faster bowlers were easier to play than the spinners.”
Ponting delayed his declaration until 15 minutes before lunch and only when Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Anil Kumble were stalling the Australians during a 45-run stand did he worry about a draw. A nominal target of 333 in 72 overs had been set and Ponting wanted only one team to have a chance of winning.
“It was a pretty tough one to get right,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what was the right amount of runs and the right amount of overs. I was conscious not to set anything that was going to be too easy for the Indians to chase.”
Talk of the streak, which Australia will attempt to expand in Perth from January 16, was secondary – “There was no motivational talk about winning 16 straight – but Ponting was confident of collecting No. 17. “We go to Perth on a wicket and conditions that should suit us a lot more than the Indians,” he said. “After two great wins like we’ve had we can obviously go to Perth pretty confident.” Matthew Hayden is in doubt for the game with the right thigh injury that prevented him from fielding in the second innings.
India captain Anil Kumble launched an astonishing attack on Australia’s cricketers after his team were beaten in the second Test on Sunday, accusing them of breaching the spirit of the game.
Kumble was unable to contain his fury after his team were beaten by 122 runs in a thrilling and controversial end to one of the most absorbing matches ever seen at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Asked by Indian journalists about Australia’s tactics, Kumble echoed something similar to the immortal line used by the Australian captain Bill Woodfull during the 1932-33 Bodyline series against England.
“Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game,” Kumble said.
He also said he was prevented from elaborating on his specific complaints about the Australian players but indicated he was upset at the refusal of their batsmen to walk when they were clearly out.
The Indians were on the wrong end of a number of bad umpiring decisions throughout the course of the match but the most crucial occurred on the first day when Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds was given not out by West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor.
Symonds, who later admitted he had nicked the ball and should have been sent packing, was on 30 at the time but went on to make 162 not out and help Australia recover from a batting slump to make 463.
“We like to play hard on the field and we expect that from Australia as well,” Kumble said.
“I’ve played my cricket very sincerely and very honestly and that’s the approach my team takes on the field and I expect that from the Australians as well.”
Kumble also bristled when asked about some of Australia’s appeals after Rahul Dravid was controversially given out, caught behind on the last day when he had failed to make contact with the ball.
“We had decided that we will be honest and when a catch is taken the player says he’s taken it, the captain nods his head and the umpire gives him out,” Kumble said.
Relations between the teams were already strained after Ponting lodged a complaint about Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh for allegedly making a racist comment to Symonds, but the Australian skipper denied there was any lingering bad blood between the sides.
“(I have) Absolutely no doubt about this match being played in the right spirit,” Ponting said.
Kumble did admit his team had batted poorly on the last day, collapsing to be all out for 210 when they needed to bat through the day to salvage a draw.
However, he insisted his team still did not deserve to lose. “The fair result would have been a draw,” he said. “It’s tough when you’ve played all forms of cricket over the last 25 years and end up on the losing side like this.”
He added: “We could have probably showed a bit more fight and we could have saved the game.”