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banner Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 20:11 GMT
Former referee backs India
Mike Denness
Denness was only applying "pointless" laws of the game
Former match referee Asif Iqbal has accused cricket officials of unfairly targeting India's players for punishment.

Iqbal has called for the rules of the game to be changed and for referees to be scrapped.

The former Pakistan Test star backed India's demands for the International Cricket Council to replace Mike Denness, a former team-mate at Kent, as referee for the third Test in South Africa.

Denness is at the centre of a political storm after banning Virender Sehwag from the third Test for excessive appealing and handing out suspended bans to five other Indian players, including Sachin Tendulkar.

If you keep taking decisions against India then they have every right to feel they have been unfairly targeted
Asif Iqbal

"In a way I have to sympathise with Mike Denness because he was just implementing the ICC's pointless rules.

"Appealing is part and parcel of the game and if an umpire is intimidated by it them he is not a very good umpire.

"The problem in this case was not with the players, the umpires or the referee, but with the rules.

"I can see why the ICC has backed Denness, but if both teams are calling for him to be replaced then they should do that as it only undermines the game if they are seen to be taking sides.

"I don't see why there should be match referees in the first place as it makes everything more complicated.

"The umpires should be given the power to do the job as they are out there in the middle and best placed to keep control of the game."

Virender Sehwag
Sehwag was banned for excessive appealing

Iqbal, who was match referee for one Test and three one-day internationals between India and Zimbabwe in 1993, believes that Indian players are consistently the victims of rough justice.

"If you keep taking decisions against India then they have every right to feel that they have been unfairly targeted," he said.

"Tendulkar has received a much harsher punishment than England's Michael Atherton did in 1994 for the same offence of ball tampering.

"When India toured Australia some of their players were punished by the referee but the Australians did not even get a caution when they were involved in very similar incidents.

"I am sure that Denness did not think about this, but the Indian public is very suspicious about his decision to suspend the Indian players' bans until the end of January.

"They think that it was done to put those players under pressure during the England tour.

"The first thing that must be done is to ensure consistency of application of the rules."

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