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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 12:32 GMT
Indian media fury over Tendulkar
India's newspapers have attacked the decision to punish Sachin Tendulkar and five other members of its cricket team in South Africa.
The issue dominated front page leads and editorials in all the leading dailies, with match referee Mike Denness bearing the brunt of criticism.
Media analysts and journalists openly accused Denness of being biased agaist India and even racist as they sprang to the defence of the country's cricket players.
One newspaper even speculated that the punishment was South African retaliation against India for revealing match-fixing allegations that led to the disgrace of former South African captain Hansie Cronje.
In a front-page leader in The Pioneer, the newspaper said: "Apartheid is a form of governance that discrimates among people on the basis of their colour.
"Over a decade after the sytem was officially abolished in South Africa, the touring Indian cricket team may be excused to think it still exists."
The Hindustan Times echoed The Pioneer when it said that different rules were being applied toplayers from different teams.
"Why is that the Muralitharans and the Shoaib Akhtars and the Virender Shewags of the world get caught in the dragnet while the likes of Slater, Pollock and the Brothers Waugh get to go home with a toothpick in the corner of their mouths?
"If we didn't know better, we would have thought that Mr Denness and his colleagues at the ICC are - what's the word now? - racist," the paper concluded.
The Times of India in an editorial entitiled "Denness the Menace" said the action against India's greatest sporting icon was a shock.
"Twelve years, 85 Test matches and 280 one-day internationals since he set foot on the world arena as a 14-year-old, the little maestro has been found by Mr Denness to be guilty of an egregious impropreity: ball-tampering.
"While no one will argue with Mr Denness' right to enforce the letter of the game's law, there is more than a question mark or two about the manner in which he has gone about his business."
The paper argued that Tendulkar was guilty of a technical violation because he failed to ask the umpire's permssion before attempting to clean the ball. This did not, the Times said, amount to anything more than an oversight and should have been so treated.
The Hindu said the match referee had failed to move on with the times and his decision belonged to an era long gone.
"For some people, like Mr Denness, things haven't changed in a long, long time. Nothing has changed since the days when the sun never set on the British Empire.
"The fact is, the spiritual home of cricket has long since moved from the village greens of England to the dusty lanes and bylanes of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Yet, the old colonial system under which the game is governed, still seems to hold firm."
Many newspapers also pointed to the apparent fact that the footage allegedly implicating Tendulkar was supplied to Denness by a local television company.
"Conspiracy theroies have started popping up with many fans saying the action agasint the Indian players in South Africa is revenge for the catching and subsequent humiliation of Hansie Cronje in the Big Fix scandal," The Asian Age said.
The media also called on the Indian cricket board to stand up for the players.
The Indian Express said that Indian cricket chief Jagmohan Dalmiya should not hesitate to convey India's strongest displeasure to the ICC.
"He won the presidentship of the BCCI (Board of Control of Cricket in India) on the promise of standing up for India's rights as a cricketing nation. This is his call to do so."
And The Times of India ended its editorial saying it was routine for Indian cricket lovers and administrators to flay the team for frequent failures and "lamentable inconsistency".
"But for now, the need of the hour is to close ranks and help our players come through this crisis resolute and psychologically unscarred," it said.
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