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Symonds tipped to respond to race row

Australia’s Andrew Symonds has been tipped to respond in the best way to a claim he sparked cricket’s racism row, but will on Friday play an Indian side refusing to keep quiet.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting on Thursday voiced his side’s disappointment at India’s Harbhajan Singh having his racial abuse suspension from the second Test downgraded to a fine and of a “character assassination” of Symonds.

But Ponting predicted Symonds would let his actions do the talking in Friday night’s Twenty20 match at the MCG.

Harbhajan is expected to play after his three-match suspension for racial abuse was downgraded to a A$3000 fine for abusive language earlier this week after he allegedly called Symonds a “monkey” in Sydney.

New Zealand judge John Hansen, who heard the appeal, apportioned much of the blame to Symonds for starting the spat.

Ponting said the drama of the past few weeks had taken its toll on both he and Symonds, but was confident the Queenslander could respond like in India last year, when he put aside monkey taunts from Indian fans to steer Australia to a one-day series victory.

“Right the way through this has had a fairly amazing knack of when things have gone against him or gone bad that he’s been able to play some of his best cricket as a result,” Ponting said.

“In India when some of this stuff happened he was the man who really stood up and won us a few games over there and I’ve got no doubt that he’ll be able to do exactly the same thing as this summer wears on.

“There’s no doubt it has taken a toll on him and it’s taken a toll on me over the last few weeks as well because we’re dealing with stiff in the middle of games that we don’t want to be talking about or thinking about.”

Ponting and Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the limited overs stage of the summer provided a fresh start after the racism row, but the tourists were keen not to be muted on the field.

“If nothing controversial is said both teams will be happy,” Dhoni said.

“But you can’t just shut up and play because it’s cricket and we’ve got to do lots of things with the bat and the ball, there should be a chit chat on the field.”

Justice Hansen was critical of Symonds initially having words with Harbhajan after the Indian patted Brett Lee’s backside to congratulate him on bowling a good delivery.

But Ponting was not impressed by the judge apportioning blame.

“Any sort of character assassination on Andrew Symonds would be completely unfair,” Ponting said.

“He’s someone who doesn’t want this stuff happening, it’s the second time with what he had to go through in India as well.”

Ponting and Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland were both disappointed at the reduction in Harbhajan’s penalty, after the International Cricket Council (ICC) failed to make his rap sheet available.

Even Justice Hansen admitted he would have imposed a stiffer penalty had he known of Harbhajan’s prior misdemeanours.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed today said the governing body had to accept fault for the blunder.

“It is very unfortunate that human error led to Justice Hansen not having the full history of Harbhajan’s previous Code of Conduct breaches and the ICC accepts responsibility for this mistake,” he said.

Speed used the ICC’s apology to warn players to lift their behavioural standards.

“In this case, it is clear that Harbhajan verbally abused an opponent having been provoked to do so by that opponent,” he said.

“This is not acceptable behaviour on the cricket field.”

Dhoni said there was no need for him as captain to address his players, as they should know the international guidelines on behaviour.

Victoria Police warned there would be a zero tolerance approach to drunken, loutish behaviour or racial abuse among spectators, adding unruly fans would be ejected.

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