Harbhajan Singh’s appeal for his ban for allegedly racially abusing Andrew Symonds has been upheld. Quite often in these cases we are left with a bad taste in the mouth, a feeling that there is no smoke without fire and that Singh ‘got away with it’, probably on a technicality. That was my initial reaction and I have heard a few people voice the same. The Australian cricket team certainly feel this way. To quote Ricky Ponting:
However, before we consign another spat into history and secretly blacken Harbhajan’s name it may be worth a quiet discussion of what actually happened.
You can read the hearing transcript at http://uk.cricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/2007-08/IND_IN_AUS/icc_commissioner_decision_30012008.pdf. Some points from it (italics denote direct quotes)
1. Brett Lee bowled an excellent yorker at Singh who just managed to get a bit of bat on it and scored runs. As they passed Singh patted Lee on the backside, anyone who plays cricket will recognise this as an indication of ‘well bowled’.
2. Symonds took exception to this action and “approached Harbhajan Singh and told him that he had no friends amongst the Australians (he admits he used the word ‘fuck’ or a derivation thereof). Singh used similar language to Symonds and neither took offence at that stage.”
3. However the exchange caused Singh to become angry and he motioned to Symonds to come towards him. Singh then said something to Symonds.
MR MANOHAR: You had any objection to that patting on the back?
MR SYMONDS: Did I have an objection to it – my objection was that a test match is no place to be friendly with an opposition player, is my objection.
So… Symonds deliberately walked up to Singh and used abusive language just because he showed a bit of sportsmanship and friendship. What sort of an attitude is that? I think Symonds should take a long look at his actions and consider setting an example for others to follow rather than deplore.
What Singh said to Symonds is the point of the hearing. Several people (Symonds, Clarke and Hayden) say they heard the word ‘monkey’ or ‘big monkey’ although only Symonds was close to Singh. Tendulkar did not hear ‘monkey’ and was quite close. Singh and Tendulkar claim the word ‘teri maki’ was used which is an insult in his native tongue and could be misheard as ‘monkey’. Symonds does not deny ‘teri maki’ was used.
I am personally disgusted at Symonds attitude and actions; they have no place on a cricket field. It seems fairly likely that Singh used ‘teri maki’ and quite rightly was cleared of the offence.