Crowd abuse delays play; India 98-2 chasing 407 to pull off ‘unlikely’ win

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‘As series hosts, we unreservedly apologize to our friends in the Indian cricket team’

SYDNEY, Jan 10, (AP): A day after making a formal complaint about racial abuse from the Sydney Cricket Ground crowd, India fast bowler Mohammed Siraj heard more of the same Sunday and didn’t wait another moment to get it stopped. The fourth day of the third Test match between Australia and India were largely overshadowed by an eight-minute stoppage shortly before the end of Australia’s second innings.

India’s Rohit Sharma hits the ball to be out caught for 52 runs during play on day four of the third cricket Test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia, on Jan 10. (AP)

Siraj, who had been fielding near the fine leg boundary and had just conceded 17 runs in an over as the Australian batsmen chased quick runs, complained to the umpires and pointed to a section of the crowd. He had the full support of his captain and team-mates, just as he had the previous night when – after the conclusion of play – he made similar complaints that were reported to the International Cricket Council. On Saturday, he was advised to let the umpires know immediately when it happened.

On Sunday, he did just that. Umpires Paul Reiffel and Paul Wilson halted the game while police and security questioned people in the crowd. Police later escorted a group of men away from their seats. They were questioned by stadium authorities and police and ejected from the ground. Police and Cricket Australia are continuing investigations. The game’s international governing body said six men were ejected.

“There is no place for discrimination in our sport and we are incredibly disappointed that a small minority of fans may think that this abhorrent behavior is acceptable,” ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney said in a statement. “We have a comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Policy in place … and we welcome the action taken by ground authorities and Cricket Australia today.” Minutes after play resumed, Australia declared their second innings closed on 312-6 when Cameron Green was dismissed for 84 on the last ball before the tea interval, setting India a victory target of 407.

At stumps, India were 98-2, still needing 309 on Monday to pull off an unlikely win and retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Australia need eight wickets on the last day to take a 2-1 series lead. Pat Cummins dismissed Rohit Sharma for 52 just before the close on day four to give Australia a strong advantage. This is only 26-year-old Siraj’s second match in Test cricket, the oldest and most elite form of the game. India spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin has toured Australia four times since 2011 and has seen it before. He’s happy something is finally being done about a problem he’s experienced before at the Sydney Cricket Ground. “In Sydney we have had a few experiences even in the past,” Ashwin said.

“The way the crowd have been speaking … they have been quite nasty and hurling abuse as well. “There is a time where they have gone one step ahead and used racial abuses.” Ashwin confirmed India had made an official complaint on Saturday, prompting the more immediate reaction on Sunday. “There was an official complaint lodged yesterday and the umpires said we must bring it to their notice as it happens on the field,” Ashwin said. “It is definitely not acceptable. This must definitely be dealt with an iron fist.” Cricket Australia issued a statement thanking the India team “for their vigilance in reporting today’s incident.” “As series hosts, we unreservedly apologize to our friends in the Indian cricket team and assure them we will prosecute the matter to its fullest extent,” Sean Carroll, Cricket Australia’s head of integrity and security, said.

“It is most regrettable that a … match contested in tremendous spirit by two friendly rivals has been tarnished by the actions of a small number of spectators over the past two days.” Stadium management said CCTV footage was being used to help the investigation. “It’s upsetting and it’s disappointing,” Australia coach Justin Langer said of the crowd abuse. “It’s one of my greatest pet hates in life, that people can think they can come to a sporting event, pay their money and think they can abuse or say whatever they like – I’ve hated it as a player. I hate as a coach.”

India captain Virat Kohli, who is on paternity leave, reacted to the incident on Twitter calling racial abuse “absolutely unacceptable.” “Having gone through many incidents of really pathetic things said on the boundary Iines, this is the absolute peak of rowdy behaviour. It’s sad to see this happen on the field,” tweeted Kohli.

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