The reason I'm back to blogging probably has a lot to do with the second test match having finished in Sydney yesterday. I basically missed out on the three first days, ironically because I was down in Sydney on holidays, but I saw a bit on Saturday, and lots yesterday.
The match was very exciting. Anyone who says differently, and I'm talking about Spanky Roebuck here, is full of crap. There were some real heroes on the day, from Hussey and Symonds building Australia's total, to Dravid, Ganguly, Kumble and Harbhajan who held out so well on a difficult pitch, to Michael Clarke who bowled well when it was finally demanded of him.
The umpiring was bad. I didn't see the decisions on the first first few days, but from what I hear they were pretty rotten, and Dravid's dismissal on the final day was a shocker, and was compounded by its importance. The Australians were excited, and the clip of the pad would have sounded like a nick to them in the heat of the moment, but Bucknor had to be better than that, and he wasn't. The bat was behind the pad, and although that's not a tactic I like (pretending to be playing a shot to avoid LBWs), Bucknor should have seen it for what it was.
The two catches with sniffs of dirt on them, by Clarke to dismiss Gangles, and by Ponting in an unsuccessful appeal for bat-bad against Dhoni, were handled properly. Ponting's was fairly caught, but there was reasonable doubt about whether the ball had hit the glove. Clarke's was close, but I've seen no replay which contradicts his claim that he caught it fairly on the first grab, and mumblings about his roll are just stupid.
Overall though, the Indians got a bum run with the umps, and deserve to say so. They've done themselves no favours, though, in immediately asking for them (and Bucknor particularly) to be stood down for future matches. The rules say they have no right to influence umpiring appointments, which is entirely correct, and if they'd waited a day or two then the ICC could have stood the umpires down of their own volition. Now that the Indians have requested it, though, the ICC's hands are tied. If they stand them down, the'll be seen to be bowing to Indian pressure, but they can't really let them continue after their performance in Sydney.
Harbhajan's suspension for racial abuse is a real shame, but he has no-one to blame but himself. Regardless of whether 'monkey' is a racial slur in India, it was made quite clear to the Indians in September that it was thought to be as such by the Australians. After that, there is no defense for having used the term. He might get his suspension knocked down on appeal though; I reckon 1 or 2 tests is more on the money.
Kumble covered himself in glory in the match, with both bat and ball, but stripped himself of it when he started questioning the Australians' approach to the game. The claim is baseless, and just comes off as hypocrisy coming from the team whose player has been quite rightly suspended for racial abuse. If he wants to make claims like that, then he needs to condemn Harbhajan's behaviour first. In reality, his real gripe should be with the umpires.
Its a real shame that all this crap interfered with the test, which was otherwise a pretty great contest.