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Cruel twist of fate: Greg Chappell

Adelaide: Darren Lehmann’s five-match suspension for racial vilification was “a cruel twist of fate”, former Australian captain and all-time great batsman Greg Chappell said here Sunday.

As family and friends rallied around a devastated Lehmann, Chappell — now coach of Lehmann’s South Australian state side — said the left-hand batsman was the last player he expected to be found guilty of racial vilification.

“This is one of the most unkind of many cruel twists of fate for Darren,” Chappell said. “Darren is one of the great fellas of Australian cricket.”

The penalty was handed out by Match Referee Clive Lloyd after the 32-year-old admitted breaching ICC code of conduct rules.

Lehmann reportedly referred to Sri Lankan players as “black” in a two-word obscenity shouted as he entered the Australian dressing-room after being run out in a tri-series clash against Sri Lanka in Brisbane four days ago.

He will miss Australia’s remaining four or five games in the current series. If the series is wrapped up in four matches, he will also be banned from Australia’s opening match of the World Cup, starting in South Africa next month.

His suspension will cost him $ 22,000 in match payments.

Chappell said: “He’s the quintessential Australian and the quintessential Australian cricketer — he plays it hard, but fair, and for him to be made an example like this is sad.

“It seems so unjust — he's such a likeable bloke who is well-liked throughout the cricket-playing world. I am sure there are a lot of supporters and players out there who feel for darren.

“He is one of the purest cricketers in the game who is admired and respected the world over.”

Former Test batsman Greg Blewett, who plays alongside Lehmann for South Australia, said he would not judge his teammate on the one-off indiscretion.

He said he still regarded Lehmann as “a great bloke” and not a racist.

He deserved to be judged on his impeccable domestic and international record, not on a remark he made in the heat of the contest in the change-rooms.

“I have been friends with Darren for a number of years and I certainly won’t be judging him any differently because of what has happened,” he said.

Lehmann made his off-the-field outburst at a critical stage of a match eventually won by Australia.

He was understood to have been especially frustrated because he was playing in his first game after being sidelined through illness and needed a strong performance to consolidate his position in the team.

Yorkshire support

Australian batsman Darren Lehmann will be retained as Yorkshire County captain next season despite his five-match suspension for making racial remarks, a spokesman for the club said Saturday.

The 32-year-old was found guilty of breaching the ICC’s racial vilification code by Match Referee Clive Lloyd during a three-hour hearing Saturday.

A seething Lehmann made the remark when he returned to the dressing-room after being run out in the tri-series match with Sri Lanka earlier in the week. The player subsequently apologised which was accepted by the tourists.

Yorkshire’s director of cricket Geoff Cope said he had been punished enough.

“As far as Yorkshire is concerned the ICC has dealt with the matter and it is time to move on,” he told Channel Four.

Cope rejected claims that Lehmann was a racist.

“Knowing Darren as we do, it is completely out of character. Darren is first to be saying he does not give his wicket away.

“He came off the pitch and through the members enclosure without saying a word and it was only when he entered the dressing-room that he made the remark which unfortunately for him was heard in the Sri Lankan dressing-room.

“As far as I am concerned, the dressing-room is a sanctuary for players and nothing said there should be repeated outside of it.”

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