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Aussies No.1 in sledging: Gray
- Umpires should have taken sterner action in the McGrath-Sarwan spat, feels ICC president

Melbourne: Sledging and spats were occurring too regularly in cricket and that Australia was a world leader, International Cricket Council (ICC) president Malcolm Gray said Wednesday.

The umpires in the Test series between Australia and West Indies should have taken “sterner action” over on-field altercations, Gray added.

Asked if Australia had a bad reputation around the world, he said: “Definitely, no doubt. Australians are not liked around the world. The messages we were getting was that the Australian public and the Australian press felt it was way over the top ... This time the Australian people believed the actions were beyond the pale.”

Gray said it was up to the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) to introduce a cultural change to prevent a repeat of the clashes seen in the West Indies, most notably between fast bowler Glenn McGrath and West Indies batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan and opposing captains Steve Waugh and Brian Lara.

“(ICC chief executive) Malcolm Speed and I were in Europe so we didn’t see it, but from all of the reports we got it appeared to both of us that the behaviour of the players was quite over the odds,” Gray said.

“It’s something that we don’t want in the sport and that in those circumstances, greater action and more sterner action should have been taken.”

Umpires provided no reports in the McGrath-Sarwan encounter and Gray said Speed would review tapes of the matches.

“He will review them but at this stage I don’t know what action, if any, will be taken, but I suspect there won’t be further action,” he said.

Gray said it was an umpire’s job to hose down any flare-ups on the field.

But he said the ACB and other world bodies should also play a part.

“In terms of process it is an ICC matter, in other words the umpires, referees and so forth,” he said.

“However in terms of the longer-term problem, it really up to the national bodies to develop within their teams a change in culture.”

Speed said experienced umpires David Shepherd and S. Venkatraghavan should have charged McGrath and Sarwan.

“Players make mistakes, umpires make mistakes. In my view the umpires made a mistake in this match,” he said.

“It’s important the umpires lay a charge and the Referee deals with it.”

Speed, however, said he did not want umpires to “over-react” by confronting players over every appeal, adding that officials would not be constantly reprimanded for missing incidents.

“We are not going to be sacking umpires because they have made a mistake,” he said.

He said umpires had been reminded by the ICC that it was up to them to control players during matches.

Gray also said that cricket has gained world-wide popularity with the game finding its way through newly resurrected Afghanistan and football stronghold Brazil.

Gray cited latest development figures to stress on cricket becoming a truly global sport.

“Latest members include a wide range of exciting countries including Afghanistan, Brazil, Chile, Sierra Leone, Croatia and the Cayman Islands,” he was quoted as saying on the ICC website.

Membership of the ICC has jumped from 45 to 84 countries since the ICC development programme was initiated in 1997, Gray said hinting at its success in attaining the goal of 30 per cent increase in the number of cricketers in the world by 2005.

“The ICC is now spending over $11 million a year on developing cricket throughout the world.

“Locally, $700,000 a year is being invested in the East Asia-Pacific region which includes Australian neighbours such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Samoa, South Korea, Tonga and Vanuatu,” said the ICC chief.

Gray said it was due to ICC high performance programme manager Bob Woolmer’s efforts that growth of cricket in the region was reflected in the world-wide emphasis on participation and development of the game at both the grassroots and representative level.

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