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Cricket back in focus

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Jan 16, 2008 at 12:03pm IST

Emroiled in rivalry that got bitter by the second during the ill-fated Sydney Test, India and Australia - two of the fiercest rivals on the cricket field today - were in danger of souring sporting, and perhaps, diplomatic relations forever.

For the last few days, captains Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble had been at opposite ends of a bitter war of words. The final day of the Sydney Test left a sour taste in the mouth of the Indian captain, who doubted Australia's spirit in the game at the cost of a win.

Charges of racial and verbal abuse added further fuel to the already enraged inferno. However, the two captains were brought together in a room by the widely respected Ranjan Madugalle, the ICC's Chief Match Referee, and they found a way to resolve.

Kumble and Ponting doubted a verbal agreement was broken, but there was a way out of it. The two widely respected captains were asked to use their stature in their teams and world cricket to end the impasse, and it worked.

After a one-on-one meeting between the rival skippers, Kumble broke the barrier by withdrawing India's charge against spinner Brad Hogg, which was indeed welcomed by Australia.

It was also brought to light that Ponting could also have reciprocated by withdrawing the charges against Harbhajan Singh, but unfortunately it had already reached the highest level. But India's gesture has allowed both sides to get on with the game in a peaceful and sporting manner, and leave aside personal attacks.

In another meeting, Kumble and Ponting also agreed to drop the catching agreement decided before the start of the series. This was negotiated in the presence of match referee Mike Procter, who himself was at the centre of the storm.

While Madugale did the ground work for getting both teams to get talking again and redraw the points of agreement, the final agreement was chalked out by Procter in his meetings with the captains.

Anil made his stand very clear and there was no ambiguity in it. Based upon this feedback, Madugalle then spoke to Ponting and made him as well as the Australian team management aware of his position. "Anil has a very clear thinking," said one source present at the negotiations.

The two captains have broken the barrier, but the two teams will meet again on the field in the third Test leaving behind the ill-feelings, and play to their best potential for a win in the spirit of the Gentleman's Game.

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