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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 13:22 GMT
Cricket outrage unites Indians
Indian newspapers
India's newspapers are up in arms over Denness
By the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi

The "Denness the Menace" affair, as it has come to be known, is completely shifting India's attention from the recent events in Afghanistan.

One Indian cricket legend, Sunil Gavaskar, summed up the mood in the country in a newspaper column on Friday pointing out that only a war or a calamity can get Indians together.

Nothing has quite united Indians as the sense of outrage over the actions of the match referee, Mike Denness, and the International Cricket Council.

The ICC withdrew Test status from the match when India and South Africa agreed to replace Mike Denness as referee with South African Denis Lindsay.

From newspaper offices to people on the street, from former players to parliament, there is a sense that India's cricket players have been grievously wronged.


Why should cricket continue to be an elite club for the rich, white countries?
Talk show caller

The central issue is that cricket officials are seen as applying the laws of the game discriminately.

"When the Australians toured India, Michael Slater disputed an umpiring decision and then abused Rahul Dravid," said former cricket player and national selector Madan Lal.

"He was let off with a fine and a reprimand by match referee Cammie Smith. The same match referee suspended Saurav Ganguly a few months later for mildly disputing an umpiring decision."

Unjust

Since Tuesday, Indian television has gone to town with "L'Affaire Denness".

One channel put together a montage of on-the-field misdemeanours by Indians and players from other countries. In each case, the channel pointed out, the Indians were punished but others escaped punishment.

An outraged elderly cricket supporter told the BBC that he was disgusted by the double standards.


If this is not racism what is?
Indian MP Kirti Azad

"It appears there are different standards for different countries. I have switched off my television set in disgust," he said.

On television talk shows, viewers complained that cricket was still the preserve of countries such as Australia and England, despite the fact that the money and audiences were in the subcontinent.

"I think it is high time we pointed out that we draw in the gate revenue and the advertisers," one caller told a sports show.

"Why should cricket continue to be an elite club for the rich, white countries?"

Protest

The issue found its way into parliament, with members describing the episode as an insult to India's national dignity.

"If this is not racism what is?" a former cricket player and member of parliament, Kirti Azad, said.

Protest marches have been held across the country targeting the ICC and the South Africans.

On Thursday, one group burned effigies outside the South African High Commission in Delhi.

But perhaps nowhere has the bizarre impact of what initially looked like an innocuous decision been felt more than between once hostile neighbours India and Pakistan.

Reports on Friday said that Indian cricket chief had appealed for support from his counterpart in the Pakistan cricket board.

PCB chief Tauqir Zia promised to do all he could - but with a rider.

Could India also offer support in fighting the case of Shoaib Akhtar, reported for throwing by a referee last month?

Latest news and views on the match referee controversy

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