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Aussie fans protest behaviour of Ganguly's Indian team

MADRAS, India, March 22 (AFP) - Australian cricket supporters have lodged a protest over rude gestures by Indian captain Sourav Ganguly and other players after winning the second Test last week.

The fans, travelling with Steve Waugh's team, wrote to the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) that Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh and Venkatesh Prasad raised their middle fingers in an obsence salute during the lap of honour after their 171-run win at Calcutta.

The ACB passed on the letter, which demands an apology from the players, to Indian coach John Wright on Wednesday, a team spokesman said here.

"For five days at the Eden Gardens my colleagues and I supported cricket, naturally wanting Australia to win, amidst a barrage of verbal taunts, food, water bombs and blood-drawing rocks," group leader Luke Gillian wrote.

"If we are to show any respect for the Indian side, on behalf of the Australian supporters I ask that Sourav, Harbhajan and Prasad make a formal apology to us."

Indian manager Chetan Chauhan said the fans had misintepreted the thumbs-up gesture by the players.

"There was nothing rude about it," Chauhan, a former Test cricketer, told AFP.

"But I must stress that Australian fans are welcome on any Indian ground. They are our guests and I will take steps to ensure that a good atmosphere prevails in the stands.

"I will speak to the players and see what needs to be done," Chauhan said when asked if he planned to tender an apology.

An Australian journalist Malcolm Conn defended the fans' decision to make an official complaint.

"Indeed, if some of Australia's leading players did that to a small group of Indian supporters at Australian grounds there would rightly be an outcry inside and outside the country," Conn wrote in the Hindu newspaper.

"The players would be branded arrogant, elitist, racist and worse. Is it any different the other way around?"

Relations between the two teams have been tense during the three-Test series, with rival captains Ganguly and Waugh making no effort to disguise their animosity towards each other.

Waugh has twice been kept waiting on the field just before the toss as the Indian captain took his time to emerge from the dressing room.

When the same thing happened before the start of the third Test here, Waugh walked up to the middle alone and complained to International Cricket Council match referee Cammie Smith, who spoke to Ganguly.

When Ganguly batted on Tuesday, Waugh donned the helmet and stationed himself close by at silly point, exchanging words with his counterpart.

The two teams are scheduled to play five one-day internationals after the third Test ends here on Thursday.

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