Angry Sidhu slams ICC
Navjot Singh Sidhu told Sky Sports News India is "up in arms" at Harbhajan Singh's ban.
Last Updated: 08/01/08 8:04am
Former Test opener Navjot Singh Sidhu has told Sky Sports News that the accusation of racism against Harbhajan Singh is an affront to the entire Indian nation.
Harbhajan has been banned for three matches by the International Cricket Council, whose match referee Mike Procter found the off-spinner guilty of racially abusing Andrew Symonds during the second Test against Australia.
The original complaint was lodged by Aussie captain Ricky Ponting, and Procter reached his decision despite the fact that neither umpire nor Sachin Tendulkar - batting with Harbhajan at the time - heard the alleged remark.
The Indians' response was to suspend the tour pending the outcome of an appeal against the verdict, and the tourists are adamant that the accusation is "blatantly false".
The row comes at the end of an already-controversial Sydney contest during which several key umpiring decisions went the way of the home side.
Sidhu, who scored more than 3,000 runs during a 15-year Test career, said: "I think this controversy has assumed a very large proportion.
"India could have ignored the umpiring decisions, which happen every day; India could have ignored the defeat on cricketing ability - that can happen every day; but India cannot ignore the slur of racism heaped on Harbhajan Singh without any concrete evidence.
"The whole country is saying: 'If the Australians do it, if they carry on with their verbal ding-dong like they have been doing for a period of time, it is called mental disintegration. People write books about it and applaud it.
"But if India retorts to all that verbal ding-dong they are snubbed and kept aside by (people) saying it is racial abuse.
"If India believes we have been an anti-racist country for a long, long time, we need to set this lot aside. We do not believe in this. We believe that Harbhajan Singh has been hanged without any evidence.
"If Ricky Ponting could be believed, and if two umpires did not hear anything, why should Sachin Tendulkar not be believed? You cannot have different yardsticks for judging different people."
Amid scenes of burning effigies in India, Sidhu added: "The whole country is up in arms against this atrocity, this shame heaped on India.
"It is not an issue about an individual; it is not an issue about the Indian cricket team; it is an issue about national pride. Take pride out of man, and he is like an umbrella without the ribs."