| Sharad Pawar with the Australians at the Champions Trophy presentation ceremony
Melbourne/New Delhi: Bowing to the wave of criticism following their behaviour after winning the Champions Trophy, Australia captain Ricky Ponting and Cricket Australia (CA) on Thursday apologised for incident in which BCCI president Sharad Pawar was nudged off the Champions Trophy presentation dais.
On a day Australian press carried stinging comments by Pawar that the behaviour of Ponting and his men was “totally uncivilised”, the Aussie captain rang up Pawar and expressed his regrets.
Ponting told Pawar that there has been no intention to disrespect anyone as all the Australian players respected him. Since the matter was reported in the Australian press too, he thought it fit to speak to him personally and explain his position.
BCCI sources said Pawar told Ponting that he had not made an issue of it and that the BCCI had not lodged any official protest with Cricket Australia. The matter is closed as far as the BCCI is concerned, Pawar said.
[When The Telegraph contacted Pawar on his cellphone for more details of the conversation, he said he was “in the middle of a function” and that vice-president Rajeev Shukla would do the needful. Till late at night, though, his cell was off. Ponting, one understands, called between 5 and 6 pm.]
Cricket Australia, it may be noted, had sent a letter to Pawar tendering an apology for the entire episode and also wanted to know when it would be convenient for Ponting could call him.
According to an Australian newspaper, Ponting tried to contact Pawar at least a dozen of times on Thursday morning, but all his efforts went in vain.
Earlier, another Australian newspaper quoted Pawar as saying on Thursday that “I will not react to this other than to say it was totally uncivilised.”
“This is not good at all but I have decided to play it down because we have an extremely good relationship with the Australian board and we would like to keep that going.”
Pawar, also the Union agriculture minister, objected to the players rushing onto the dais at the awards function and sought an apology from the Australian players, the paper reported.
“Those players were not allowed to come onto the dais. It was only supposed to be the captain. Certainly, I would accept an apology because then we could close this chapter. The Australian board is headed by a respected and civilised man (James Sutherland) and our relationship is extremely good. If they apologise, it would be a good signal to the people of this country,” Pawar said.
TV footage showed Ponting gesturing at Pawar asking him to hand over the trophy quickly and Damien Martyn then pushing him away.
The incident enraged former and present Indian cricketers, including Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. Besides, the NCP, the political party headed by Pawar, also launched a protest against Ponting & Co.
Meanwhile, Ponting said at the launch of his book Captain’s Diary on Thursday morning that “ I think the public have probably had an opportunity today to have a look at the incident (on television).
“I hadn’t seen it until this morning myself. It doesn’t look great on television, but I think the more times you look at it, you probably realise that there’s no intent to offend anybody,” he said, adding “we all probably got a little bit caught up in the excitement of the moment.”
Martyn also tendered an apology to Pawar for his behaviour. “I did not mean to offend him and I apologise if I did so,” he told a Sydney-based newspaper.
“There was nothing in it other than my trying to help him out as there was a crush of people,” he said.