Online polls conducted by leading Australian newspapers have captured a backlash among many Australians against the win-at-all costs mentality of their national team. The polls are neither scientific nor an accurate representation of broad public opinion. The consistency of their results is nonetheless striking. In one such poll for the Australian on "Who is most to blame for the Sydney Test furore", 7,769 respondents blamed the Australian team (45 per cent), umpires (22), the Indian team (20) and all of them (13). This is especially interesting because this paper's cricket journalists have largely backed Ricky Ponting and his men and been harshly critical of Indian complaints and the International Cricket Council's capitulation to the Indian cricket board's threats in standing down Steve Bucknor from the Perth Test.

While in complete empathy with these sentiments, the primary blame lies with the ICC as the international governing authority. The bafflement of Cricket Australia, the team and many journalists suggests that they still don't get it. 'That's not fair' are three of the most powerful words in the English language and explain many a revolution and uprising rooted in the sense of group grievance and injustice. 'It's just a game, get on with it', seems to be the reaction of many Australians. 'It's just a game, not worth this insult to the nation's integrity', is the unanimous Indian reaction.

The crisis could have been avoided if the ICC had not firmly buried its head in the sand in true ostrich fashion on so many issues. First, sometimes words and behaviour can be innocent or unacceptably offensive depending on context and culture. As has been noted, most Indians (and Australians?) would have been bemused to learn that being called a monkey constitutes serious abuse, whereas bastard - common in the Australian vernacular - undoubtedly is. It cannot be the case that Australian cricketers have some divine dispensation to determine the bounds of moral behaviour. The ICC has been too cowed to stamp out their practice-perfect pastime of sledging. If provocations go unreported and un-punished, and only retaliation is penalised, then of course teams have an incentive to push the boundaries of provocations further and further until a big bust-up occurs. Ban sledging, make it a four-letter word, and tell umpires and match referees to come down hard on the sledgers.

Second, umpires cannot simultaneously be the source of unquestioned authority and infallible judgment, on the one hand, yet human enough to make mistakes on the other. And players are expected to possess inhuman strength to bear serial setbacks caused by umpiring errors? The authority of umpires is undermined by the proof of the errors they make, and the impact of these on affecting the outcome. Loss of respect and questioning of decisions by the players is more a consequence than the cause of the erosion of umpires' authority.

Third, using technological aid to underline or correct umpiring errors would help to restore their authority. When the technology exists to prove them wrong, not using it to help them make the right decisions is just plain cussedness. And when individual careers and national pride-cum-passions are involved, the mixture is highly combustible. Conversely, once technology is fully utilised, the need for neutral as opposed to the best available umpires disappears.

Finally, the institution and choice of match referees needs much closer scrutiny by the ICC if it is to avoid continuing public scrutiny. Simply appointing retired cricketers, no matter how glorious their past record, is criminal folly.

Inzamam-ul Haq has recalled that the match referee was the same in the last two fiascos, the Oval Test in England in 2006 and the Sydney Test in 2008, and this is not coincidental. The match referee needs cricketing knowledge, yes, but also diplomatic skills of mediation and conciliation and political skills of sensing trouble and acting in a timely and sensible manner to forestall it. Instead he aggravated an already tense situation into a full-blown international crisis. Given his track record, the fault lies squarely with those who chose him for the series.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.