India's chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar on Friday came down hard on ICC match referee Mike Procter, saying he needs to be punished for his role in the Harbhajan Singh racial abuse episode.
"I think [ICC match referee Mike] Procter failed in his duties. He bungled even in the Oval Test between Pakistan and England and also in the West India-Australia match when Ramnaresh Sarwan and Glenn McGrath clashed. I hope ICC takes some action against Procter," Vengsarkar said in Mumbai on Friday, at the launch of the Polycom Cricketfest 2008, an annual corporate Twenty20 cricket tournament.
Harbhajan, who was handed a three-match ban after Procter found him guilty of racially abusing Andrew Symonds, was cleared of the charges by ICC-appointed appeals commissioner Justice John Hansen following a hearing in Adelaide on Tuesday.
The Indian off-spinner escaped the ban as it was found that he used a Hindi expletive and not 'monkey' or 'big monkey', as was claimed by Symonds and some of his team mates.
Vengsarkar believes sledging is a tactic used by the Aussies to put pressure on opponents.
"Australia are known to be sledgers. They think that people have a weak mind and they will collapse; but it makes one stronger and they perform better. I think performance on the field is the best way to reply," he added.
However, he also cautioned Harbhajan, saying the playing field has no place for abusive banter.
"Whatever provocation one faces, they should not use bad words on the field," he said.
The former India captain was also hopeful that fast bowler S Sreesanth keeps his on-field antics in check and focuses on his bowling.
"I saw Sreesanth bowl for BPCL in the Times Shield and I thought he bowled very well, around the 145-kmph mark. Hope he controls his emotions on the field, because he is a very fine bowler and I expect him to do well in Australia," he said.
The chairman of selectors said even though Twenty20 has taken the world of cricket by storm, it can never take the place of Tests and one-day cricket.
"The 50-over game has become a bit monotonous now. The Twenty20 version is quite popular all around the world and is here to stay. It has become an integral part of cricket.
"Test cricket is the ultimate cricket. It tests the true skills and temperament of a cricketer. Twenty20 is entertaining and provides a lot of excitement to the fans. Even the 50-over game has its own place and I don't think it will phase out," Vengsarkar said.
He lauded the Indian team's performance in the recently-concluded Tests even though it lost the four-match series 1-2.
"It was a great Test series because the two best teams in world cricket played each other. When I took over [as the chief selector] our team was seventh in the world rankings, but now they are second and very soon I am sure they will be number one," he said.
Delhi's young fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who put in a great showing during the Tests, also came in for special praise.
"Ishant has done extremely well in the Test series. He is a fine prospect and is improving with every game and that is a good sign. We have invested in him since the England tour [last year]. Even bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad has worked hard on Ishant and the results are showing," Vengsarkar said.
He was confident about the young Indian team, under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, making an impression in the upcoming tri-series.
"The ODI team that we have selected is very promising. The players selected have done well in domestic and international cricket. The selectors believe that they have the capability to do well and that they can bring the energy on the field. They have the potential and it is always advisable to test them against the best team in the world," Vengsarkar said.