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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 14:46 GMT
Australia approach wins backing
Ricky Ponting signals to Sourav Ganguly that he is out during the controversial second Test in Sydney
Ponting and his team have come under fire after the Sydney Test
Cricket Australia has defended Ricky Ponting's team, insisting they play "hard but fair", following mounting criticism of their on-field behaviour.

India accused the Aussies of lacking sportmanship in the second Test.

But CA chief executive James Sutherland said: "The team are not perfect but get it right a lot more than they used to. It's Test cricket, not tiddly winks."

And South Africa Test batsman Boeta Dippenaar said: "They always test you but what happens is nothing untoward."

He told BBC Sport: "I haven't found the Australians to be abusive towards me at all.

"It's more a question that they know they can unsettle. They got under the skin of someone like Herschelle Gibbs and it worked well for them because he got involved with it.

"There was nothing personal or untoward said, except they tried from a cricketing point of view to get under his skin and unsettle him, and they managed to do that well."

The players are not going too far - the guys play tough and have been brought up that way

Ex-Australia star Justin Langer

Dippenaar was backed by former Australia opener Justin Langer, who told the BBC he felt the team had not overstepped the mark with their behaviour on the field.

"Australian cricket, and Australian sports people in general, play very hard. And certainly in terms of the cricket team, it has been a vital ingredient in their extra-ordinary success," he said.

"My personal view is that the players are not going too far. The guys play tough and have been brought up that way."

Australia's centrally contracted players released a document in 2003 called 'The Players' Spirit of Australian Cricket' in which they said they would "Play our cricket hard but fair and...not condone or engage in sledging or any other conduct that constitutes personal abuse".

606: DEBATE
ST

And Sutherland insisted criticism over how aggressively the Australians play the game was "inappropriate".

He added: "It's a tough game and from time to time emotions will boil over. Perhaps some of the words said would not be acceptable in gentle company but they are said and that is what happens."

Dippenaar says Australia are not the only team to engage in verbal warfare or mind games on the field, and believes countries like India object because it is not a natural approach for them.

It is a very subjective matter and it's very difficult to pinpoint to an exact stage what is it that is too far

Dippenaar on sledging

The 30-year-old also feels it is difficult to clamp down on sledging.

"I don't think it's uncommon but I've generally found the Asian nations have been more soft-spoken on the field," he explained.

"The western nations have always been a bit more verbal. Indian or subcontinental teams have always got on with the game.

"I tend to agree with Mark Taylor's statement that you must be careful about complaining about things you actually practise at times.

"The question will always be what is the acceptable level? Some feel the boundary can be pushed further than other people.

"It is unfortunately a very subjective matter and it's very difficult to pinpoint to an exact stage what is it that is too far."

The dust will settle quickly. The Australian players and the Indian players get on so well

Langer on relations between the teams

Cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council, has appointed chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle to act as a mediator between Ponting and Kumble in an attempt to end the ill-feeling.

Sutherland, who revealed Ponting had made an offer immediately after the end of the second Test to meet with Kumble, said he was "confident" the captains could reconcile any differences.

Ponting has come in for personal criticism, with calls made in Australia for him to resign.

But Langer feels things will calm down and has backed his former skipper.

"The dust will settle quickly. The Australian players and the Indian players get on so well," he said.

"Adam Gilchrist and Rahul Dravid, for example, are really good mates. Anil Kumble is one of the gentlemen of the game - as are Sachin Tendulkar, Brett Lee and Matthew Hayden.

"And Ricky Ponting, who I know is coming in for a lot of criticism at the moment, is one of the most humble and honest people, let alone cricketers or captains, I have ever come across."



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