The Australian touring party are privately astonished at Indian opener Gautam Gambhir’s escape from a likely multiple match ban for making physical contact with allrounder Shane Watson (picture) on day one of the third Test in Delhi.

On-field umpires Billy Bowden and Aleem Dar charged Australian allrounder Shane Watson and Gambhir with conduct not in the spirit of the game after a collision and verbal exchange between the pair.

Gambhir claimed the collision, which occurred in the 51st over of India’s first innings on Wednesday, was accidental.

But the Australians were surprised that he avoided a charge under clause 2.4 of the code, for “inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between Players in the course of play”.

Were Gambhir to be charged with this offence, he faced a minimum two Test match ban if found guilty because it is his second such transgression within 12 months.

Gambhir was fined 65 per cent of his match fee for a similar encounter with Shahid Afridi of Pakistan during a limited overs match at Kanpur in November 2007.

In public, the tourists retained a diplomatic front via acting chief executive Michael Brown.

“Our player (Watson) has been reported, and we’ve got to defend him to the best of our ability in the hearing tonight,” Brown said.

“What happens with any other player is none of our responsibility, it’s an ICC issue, there’s no influence from us, we don’t have anything to do with the process.”
Watson will answer a Level 1 charge under the same section of the players’ code of conduct for not playing within the spirit of the game.

Gambhir, who has hit consecutive centuries against the Australians, had a series of verbal clashes with Watson during the middle session on day one and then ran into him when attempting a second run.

“It wasn’t deliberate, it just happened,” Gambhir told reporters after play.

“I didn’t need to get into this argument with Shane Watson because he had no option of getting me out.

“There wasn’t a need for me to stick my elbow out, it just happened.”
Level 2 penalties range from a fine of between 50 and 100 per cent of a match fee and/or a ban of one Test.

If Watson, playing in his sixth Test, is found guilty he could receive an official reprimand and/or fine of up to 50 per cent of his match fee.

Gambhir was involved in another heated exchange with Australian part-time spinner Simon Katich in the evening session.

The pair had to be separated by Bowden, but no charges were laid.

Indian paceman Zaheer Khan was docked 80 per cent of his match fee last week for his celebration when Matthew Hayden was dismissed in the second innings of India’s 320-run win in the second Test at Mohali.

The tense series, which India leads 1-0, follows a fractious contest in Australia’s 2-1 win at home in 2007-08.