This article belongs to Australia - Land of the Free? column.
It's interesting to compare attitudes to cricket's disciplinary processes by Asian teams and by the Australian team. For instance, let's look at three cases, namely Arjuna Ranatunga from Sri Lanka at Adelaide oval, Darren Lehmann from Australia at Brisbane cricket ground, and Harbhajan Singh from India at Sydney Cricket Ground recently.
In 1999 a six match penalty was imposed on Ranatunga - the Sri Lankan Captain -for his action in leading his players off the field thereby causing a 12 minute hold - up after the teams' controversial off - spin bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, was no-balled for throwing by Australian umpire Ross Emerson in a one-day game against England in Adelaide. The penalty was suspended.
International Cricket Council (ICC) referee, Peter van der Merve, said, 'Ranatunga expressed regret at the embarrassment he caused his opponents, the public, and officials'.
Contrast that situation with the attitude to the Darren Lehmann case in January 2003 at the Brisbane Cricket ground. When he was given out he walked back into his empty dressing room where he expressed a racial comment to no one in particular. The comment was overheard then reported to the match referee Clive Lloyd. Lehmann apologised to the Sri Lankans who expressed a desire for the matter to proceed no further. However, the referee saw it differently he banned Lehman for 5 matches. The player did not appeal.
The Harbhajan Singh matter is still to be appealed although West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor has been sacked to appease the Indian's. However the threat to end the tour is still there if Singh is found guilty.
India is the serial offender when it comes to relatively minor offences with their players being in breach of the rules 43 times in recent years. In contrast to the recent case involving Harbhajan Singh they took their punishment with very little fanfare. Even with Australia's reputation as aggressive players they have only be cited 25 times over the same period.
When the offence is serious however, the attitude is entirely different. Sri Lankan captain Ajuna Ranatunga was seen to be standing up for his player Muttiah Muralitharan who was called for throwing thereby cheating. All the resources of the players home country was brought to bear on the ICC from legal advice to the country's leaders plus newspapers getting involved. The result a suspended sentence.
Now it appears the same attitude prevails for Singh. No way could their player have committed this offence. He's Indian and therefore not racist. Newspaper comments with pictures as well as television coverage of Indian people burning effigies of Australian players plus the umpires in the streets then demanding their players abandon the tour costing millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Pity poor Darren Lehman, he was on his own. Except for his lawyer the Australian Cricket Board as well as the Australian people abandoned him even though his offence was directed at no one, and he immediately apologised. Surely this was the lesser of the offences but he took his punishment and didn't appeal.
Perhaps both Sri Lanka and India took the charges to their players as an affront to their nation when Australia saw it as against the player. Or maybe the authority of the ICC is stronger for the Australian's than Asian countries. Then again maybe it's about the culture of the two nations. The ICC has to take the attitude of all nations into account to avoid these blowups that mar the game of cricket.
Somehow these issues have to be resolved. The future of cricket depends on it.