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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 14:03 GMT
Indian fans vent their anger
By Rahul Tandon
BBC Sport in Calcutta

Indian protestors burn a picture of umpire Steve Bucknor
Umpire Steve Bucknor is one of those blamed for India's defeat

Abishek Kajwara is like most people in Calcutta. He loves watching and playing cricket.

For the whole of the Sydney Test between India and Australia, this young accountant was glued to his television screen. At times he felt like throwing it out of his window.

He is far from the only one.

The second Test will now not be remembered for Australia's thrilling victory, but for the acrimonious fall-out that has angered a nation.

And the focus of India's ire is clear - umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson.

"Umpires give Oz 2-0 lead" said the Times of India while a headline in the Indian Express claimed "Team India - c Benson b Bucknor".

The Indian cricket board was fuming after the umpires made, what it perceived as, a host of costly errors, and they got their wish on Tuesday when Bucknor was dropped for the third Test in Perth.

For many India fans, this move will not be enough to calm their sense of injustice about what happened in Sydney.

The Australians have killed the spirit of the game we love

A Calcutta tea shop customer

In Calcutta, a city built by the British, people are crazy about their cricket.

They love to sit and talk about the game. Start a conversation on it and you can get stuck for hours.

The Australians of course know this city well. As Calcuttans are quick to point out, this is the scene of India's greatest ever victory against the Aussies in 2001.

One of the stars of that unlikely win was Harbhajan Singh and it is no surprise that here on the streets of the city there is lots of support for Bhaji after his three-match ban for allegedly making a racist remark to Andrew Symonds.

Sanjoy Banerjee, an IT specialist, said: "It's time for the Indians to come home. We cannot sit and watch our players being insulted like this."

Many Indians share his thoughts. In an opinion poll in the Hindustan Times - one of the country's leading newspapers - 91% of Indians said India should pull out of the tour while 84% believe that Bhaji is innocent.

Harbhajan Singh (holding bat) is spoken to by the umpires during the Sydney Test
Umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor speak to Harbhajan Singh

For most Indians, match referee Mike Procter is the villain in the Bhaji affair.

They cannot understand how he ignored the evidence of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan and skipper Anil Kumble while believing the testimonies of Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke.

Reports here suggest that Tendulkar has sent a text to the man who runs Indian cricket, Sharad Pawar, assuring him that the off-spinner was innocent and suggesting that India should only play the third Test if the punishment is revoked.

The SMS is believed to have had a simple message - "something must be done".

The sorry affair has led to protests across India.

Fans in downtown Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, set fire to effigies of Benson and Bucknor.

Angry fans also came out on the streets in the western town of Vadodra and the northern city of Kanpur. Fans have also taken to the streets of Calcutta.

Fans display posters in protest after the controversial second Test
India fans in Kolkata express their feelings

Alok Dasgupta, sports editor of the popular Bengali television channel Tara News, said: "Over the next few days the protests will get bigger."

He also added that "there is no proof against Harbhajan and many Indians feel personally insulted by the slur on the national side".

These are difficult days for cricket. If this tour is cancelled it will have a devastating effect on the game in the country.

Under ICC rules, member countries are obliged to fulfil their tour contracts except when the security of the players is at risk or the touring team's government order that the tour should not proceed.

If India pull out, they are likely to be hit with a fine in the region of 1.17m and could face claims from Cricket Australia, sponsors and broadcast companies.

But here in Calcutta one thing is clear - the Australians have lost the respect of many Indian fans.

At a tea shop in south Calcutta, Raja Datta sums up the feelings of many when he says: "The Australians have killed the spirit of the game we love. We no longer want them to play in our city."



SEE ALSO
Tour at risk after Harbhajan ban
07 Jan 08 |  Cricket
Australia beat India in thriller
06 Jan 08 |  Cricket
Australia v India photos
02 Jan 08 |  Cricket
India in Australia 2007-08
21 Apr 07 |  Cricket


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