India must use its growing power in world cricket to keep the game on the right path rather than becoming obsessed with short-term issues like code-of-conduct hearings, James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, has said. He said there was little the rest of the cricketing world could do to match India's power, so Indian administrators needed to take greater responsibility for the game's welfare.
Sutherland was speaking in Melbourne in the lead-up to the Nagpur Test, before India confirmed that their starting line-up would not include Gautam Gambhir, who was suspended for one Test for elbowing Shane Watson. It was unclear whether Gambhir was in the side or out of it - even India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on the day before the match, said he was "almost sure" he wouldn't be playing.
Sutherland said it was clear India viewed such behavioural issues differently from Australia. "They tend to look at these sorts of issues and code of conduct decisions in a different sort of light," Sutherland said. "We have seen in the last probably five years, at least four times where they have tried some sort of approach to appeal and, where the appeal hasn't been successful, taken it to another level."
In January, India were seriously considering whether to continue with their tour of Australia after Harbhajan Singh was suspended for allegedly racially abusing Andrew Symonds - a ban that was later overturned on appeal. And in 2001, India refused to accept Virender Sehwag's suspension and named him for a Test against South Africa. The match was stripped of its Test status when the teams agreed to lock the match referee Mike Denness out of the stadium.
Sutherland said "you can always argue" that India had too much power over the sport and compared their influence in the ICC with the role the United States plays in the United Nations. However, he felt the other cricketing countries could do little but accept the status quo.
"The power that India has is obviously connected a lot to the financial contribution that they make to the game," he said. "Something like 70% of cricket revenue is generated out of India and to that end it means that I think they have, in recent times, come to realise that with that they can influence more than perhaps they have done in the past.
"With that ability to influence obviously comes power and, as someone once told me, with wealth comes responsibility. That's something that ideally you would like to see India continue to take a leadership role in helping the game to be better rather than focusing on taking these sorts of issues that we're talking about today, with Gambhir, down the wrong path."