Feb 28, 2008 at 12:53pm IST

Weed row: Gilchrist comes to Hayden's defence

Sydney: As the war of words between India and Australia gets hotter, there is no ceasefire in sight. On Thursday, Adam Gilchrist dismissed Harbhajan Singh's comment that Mathew Hayden was an unpopular figure in international cricket.

As the Australian board let opener Matthew Hayden off with just a reprimand for his unsavoury remarks on India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and the Indian board made another appeal to end sledging, cricketers have been quick to stand by their teammates with claims and counter-claims.

Retiring Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist Thursday dismissed claims from Harbhajan that Hayden was an unpopular figure in international cricket.

FRIEND IN NEED: Gilchrist has dismissed Harbhajan's comment that Hayden was an unpopular figure in international cricket.

"I've not ever cared to think what other teams think of Matthew Hayden. He's one of the well-respected people in our team and that's all that matters to me," Gilchrist said.

After Hayden called Harbhajan an "obnoxious little weed" on a Brisbane FM radio show, the Indian spinner had retorted by saying most opponents disliked Hayden.

"I don't want it to be a slanging match, but you only need to speak to international cricketers and international teams to know in what opinion they hold Hayden," the Daily Telegraph quoted Harbhajan.

During a marathon hearing on Wednesday night, Hayden escaped a one-match ban as well as a fine, but was charged with breaching the Cricket Australia (CA) Code of Behaviour Rule 9 relating to detrimental public comment.

Soon after the hearing, Hayden told the media: "I maintain my innocence, my intentions were never to denigrate cricket or anyone. The umpire has made his decision and in the spirit of our own code of behaviour and our great game of cricket I respect and accept this decision."

"We've got a trophy out there in the next few weeks that I'm really keen obviously with my team-mates to concentrate on now, we want to win this trophy as badly as any other," he added.

The Hayden incident has been the latest in a series of controversies — from a racism row, shocking umpiring decisions, threats by India to abandon the tour, to players being fined for aggressive behaviour.

Mastery in the art of sledging and not great feats on the pitch has been the flavour during this simmering summer of cricket Down Under.

Australia play Sri Lanka at the Melbourne Cricket Ground Friday in a inconsequential league match before clashing with India in the best-of-three finals, which starts Sunday at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

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