Players are the problem - not umpires
Anybody who finds themselves surprised by the events on India's tour of Australia must have been living on a different planet for the past five years.
The unedifying drama unfolding in Sydney is the result of a number of issues which have been bubbling away beneath the surface with increasing intensity.
They all exploded in a furious head as Australia single-mindedly homed in on their record-equalling 16th Test victory, without giving a damn about the consequences on the way.
Let’s start what will probably be a controversial, but honest, assessment by congratulating Australia on their achievement.
What a shame it is that the legacy of this fine team will be so tarnished by the ugly and offensive manner in which it plays the game – and has done for at least three years.
Ricky Ponting’s men have trampled all over the spirit of cricket by offering the lame excuse that they are "hard". In their world, deliberately conning the umpire is part and parcel of the game: “It’s his decision," they offer as a cop-out.
Just look at Andrew Symonds, who visibly gloated for the media when he admitted he had got away with a catch behind the wicket early in his first innings - what a miserable performance.
And what effect does that have on the umpire’s confidence – or that of the players in him?
This Australia team plays the game to win – there’s nothing wrong in that – but it has negated its responsibility to those who watch it and, more importantly, the next generation of cricketers who will inherit the battered sprit of cricket that Ponting’s team leaves in its trail.
Cricket can be an aggressive sport, but it is the ball and the bat that should do the talking. The hostile, nasty and intimidating environment that the Australians create on the pitch is a key ingredient in unsettling an opponent.
Little wonder that, sometimes, a volatile character lashes out in what he would perceive as self-defence, and what does it say of these "hard" men that they then go and report him to the umpire?
They can give it, but can’t take it.
That, of course, does not offer any defence for racism. If Harbhajan Singh did racially abuse Symonds, he must be punished for it.
But the above might offer some insight into how a cowed opponent could suddenly react to the intense pressure and intimidation that has been deliberately and ruthlessly applied to him by the fielding team.
Purely because we are talking about India here, I am going to throw in Sreesanth’s name as an example of an Indian cricketer who has often – and recently - gone well beyond the spirit of cricket: it is not purely an Australian thing.
And that is why the decision to remove Steve Bucknor from the next Test is so short-sighted.
As I warned when Darrell Hair was seen off by the Pakistan Cricket Board 18 months ago, the way was opened for powerful cricket teams to dispose of officials when a decision is made they do not like. How dare the game be held to ransom in this way.
But the real fault lies with the players – and it is their behaviour, attitude and respect for the game and its traditions that need urgently to be addressed.
Umpires will always make mistakes – just as the players do (although you wouldn’t believe it sometimes) and undermining their confidence by removing their most senior colleague in this way is unbelievably foolish.
Cricket is truly at a crossroads.
Administered these days by businessmen who have no feel for, or genuine love and understanding of the game, cricket is played purely for money, ego and power for those who control it.
Goodness knows where it will end unless a stand is taken, and that action must be directed by all the countries at all of their players, and not the umpires.