Australia's 2015 World Cup-winning captain Michael Clarke has come out in praise of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (CA) for resolving the Decision Review System (DRS) row quickly. Clarke on Tuesday lauded BCCI and CA but felt the infamous 'Monkeygate' episode of 2007-08 series dragged on for far too long. BCCI and CA reached truce last Thursday with the former withdrawing the complaint it filed with the International Cricket Council (ICC) against Australia skipper Steve Smith for seeking dressing room advice on DRS in the second Test against India.
Speaking about the 'Monkeygate' episode involving Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh vis-a-vis the latest dispute, Clarke said, "I would be very honest about where I saw the situation at SCG at that time. I was very close to Andrew Symonds. I asked him whether he was racially vilified. It was not only about the racial vilification of Andrew. It should have ended right there, continuing with the spirit of the game.
"Look at the Steve Smith incident, it's the right way. They have handled it really well. We know we are in for great Test series. We focus on the next match. (It) does not matter how hard you are on the field or who you play against, you should hold highest respect for each other."
Charged with racial abuse, Harbhajan was initially handed a three-match ban which was later reduced, even as both the boards got locked in a fierce courtroom battle in the aftermath of India's 122-run defeat in the Sydney Test.
"Whatever happened is in previous Test and it's gone. They come out in Ranchi, that was very smart. They might have sat somewhere in CCI and taken a decision to not take it any further," Clarke said at the India book launch of his autobiography 'My Story'.
The launch took place at cricket historian Boria Majumdar's sports museum 'Fanattic'.
"It's fantastic to watch the series as a commentator, as a lover of the game. It will be no different in Ranchi and Dharamsala. We wanted to be competitive. The decision was the right one for the game of cricket."
Smith left India miffed when he looked towards the dressing room for advice on whether to review a lbw dismissal in the Bangalore Test.
India captain Kohli made his displeasure known at the post-match press conference, just stopping short of calling his counterpart cheat.
Clarke said he too has made mistakes in his career but would never cheat.
"In the same series (2007-8), when I was batting I edged a Kumble wrong'un at the slip. But I didn't walk blatantly. I should have walked. That was one of the mistakes I made," he revealed, adding it was out of pure love for the country.
"I loved to represent my country so much. I really wanted to perform. I didn't want to go and was so disappointed. I've made plenty of mistakes in my career.
"But I always believe I played the game with right spirit, with utmost importance to represent my country, my franchise. I would never try and cheat. I don't think it's fair to look back on one, two three individual incidents in my career but I have played the sport with utmost dignity and held respect for my country.
Praising Kohli for his leadership on the Indian team, Clarke said, "As a captain of Australia, you take forward the legacy of every leader the country leaves. There's a standard to take on that job, no matter what team you captain. India is no different to Australia. They want their team to win. Virat knows that and he has his own style. We had one common role. They loved winning.
"That's exactly what Kohli is doing, he's that love, passion and desire. I feel like Kohli has the aggression. He takes risk to win a game at any cost. I think that's a wonderful quality to have."
Clarke remembered Kohli's fine gesture when the Indian came for the funeral of Phil Hughes along with his team-mates during the 2014-15 series.
"The way Virat handled that situation... he came for the funeral. I've utmost respect for that. That period is a lot bigger than the game of cricket. India could have said no but they did not. I will always remember that," Clarke said.
On an emotional note, Clarke said, "I still have his (Phil Hughes') mobile number in my phone. It's still hard to fathom that he's no longer there with us."
Ganguly quipped that the 'Monkeygate' was a bit more than what the world saw.
"I can guarantee you the Monkeygate will not have its true picture in the book. Because only a Sardarjji would know what another Sardar was saying. You may call it Monkeygate, Hanumangate or whatever gate. I was standing next to Harbhajan Singh when he was saying those words. I know exactly what he meant. Nevertheless the incident was a bit more than just the word Monkeygate," said Ganguly.
"We did not know what would happen whether we would go for the next match or not. Everyone was angry. Ultimately, we won the Perth Test amid all that wonderful series in Australia," he added.
Clarke also donated his World Cup winning jersey to the Boria Majumdar Fanattic Sports Museum and Ganguly held it for a photo opportunity as the former India captain said it was not a happy feeling.
"It was not the best shirt I was holding. I know it's a terrific reward as a cricketer, captain and the youngsters of Australia. But this is the same jersey that thrashed us in 2003 and 2015 World Cups (finals and semifinals respectively)," Ganguly said.
Talking about the wickets in the ongoing series, Ganguly said, "The tracks could have been a lot better in Bengaluru. But when you come to India, you expect such pitches. Australia have done remarkably well. You expect the ball to turn. The two Aussie spinners have put enormous amount of pressure on Indian batsmen.
"Whatever the curator in Ranchi says, it would invariably turn. The series is open and wicket will turn. Whatever the pitch, whoever plays well will win. Criticise the pitch, yes, but the crux is you have to handle spin."
(With inputs from PTI)