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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Indian fans face racism charges
Indian crowd
The Indian crowd allegedly made offensive gestures
Four Indian cricket fans have been charged for allegedly racially abusing Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds by making monkey gestures, police say.

The four fans were evicted from a one-day international match in Mumbai (Bombay) on Wednesday.

Symonds is the only mixed race player in the Australian side, having made his international debut in 1998.

He frequently clashed with Indian players during the one-day series, which Australia won 4-2.

Cricket officials say that photographs of fans making offensive gestures to Symonds as he came in to bat have been handed over to police.

Police say that the four fans, including a woman, have been charged with harassment and have now been released on bail to appear in court at a later date.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that the gestures were made even as an anti-racism message flashed on a big screen.

"There is no place for racism in cricket either on or off the field," a joint statement released on Wednesday by Indian and Australian cricket officials said.

"All cricket nations have to be on guard to ensure that the fun does not cross the boundary into unacceptable behaviour."

'Cultural misunderstanding'

Officials say that Indian fans might have targeted Symonds because of his heated exchanges with Indian bowlers Harbhajan Singh and Shantakumaran Sreesanth.

Andrew Symonds (right)
Symonds has sometimes clashed with Indian players

Symonds, who was born in England to West Indian parents, but then adopted and taken to Australia by his new family when he was two years old, complained of being subjected to monkey chanting earlier in the series.

Initially his allegations were dismissed by the Indian cricket authorities, who said that there was a lack of evidence and later that it may have been caused by a "cultural misunderstanding".

Their attitude was strongly criticised in the Australian press, which described it as "ranging from ridiculous to ignorant".

Our correspondent says that the issue has become a major debating point on online blogs, with charges being traded by Indian and Australian cricket fans.

With the rhetoric heating up and India due to tour Australia in December, our correspondent says that this is an issue that is threatening to turn ugly.

Cricket Australia officials have, however, ruled any possibility of future tours to India being boycotted because of the issue.

"I don't think it has got to that stage. There is an ICC International Cricket Council anti-racism policy in place. The ICC and the BCCI [the Board of Control for Cricket in India] will no doubt deal with these issues," said CA chief executive James Sutherland.

"While the incident in the last game in Mumbai was disappointing, it is pleasing to see the officials at the ground are taking the response to evict those people from the ground and take the appropriate action."

Sutherland said Symonds now wanted to put the matter behind him.

"It is not something that he is necessarily comfortable with - but he sees that there is no cause for reaction, because that only further inflames it," he added.

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