In this article in yesterday’s Australian newspaper, Peter Lalor, our good friend from The Australian, takes aim at Harbhajan Singh’s mother and squeaky-voiced Indian TV reporters!
My conclusion after reading Peter Lalor’s recent articles is that he is somewhat upset by Justice Hansen’s ruling. Maybe he has a dislike for anyone that plays the game like the Australians do.
What did Harbhajan Singh do? He stood up to an Australian player.
In my view, that is precisely why Sourav Ganguly, Arjuna Ranatunga, Harbhajan Singh, Sree Santh, et al, are disliked here in Australia. They play the game tough. They give it to the Australians as Australians themselves do to them. I do believe Australians need to get used to this new breed of cricketer from the sub-continent. They are not going to take things lying down — as they have, over the years!
One could mount the argument that Harbhajan Singh was a placid person on the pitch playing his cricket until he ears got pinned by a needlessly ugly behaviour on the field.
Let us not forget that Harbhajan Singh was actually trying to encourage his opponent, Brett Lee, with a “well bowled” comment, when his head got snapped off by the churlish Andrew Symonds. Symonds said that he had an objection to Harbhajan Singh saying some encouraging words to one of the Australians. Symonds said, “my objection was that a test match is no place to be friendly with an opposition player.”
Justice Hansen admonished Symonds’ behaviour and said, “If that is his view I hope it is not one shared by all international cricketers. It would be a sad day for cricket if it is.”
Was Harbhajan Singh provoked? Well, Justice Hansen seemed to think so. Was he right to mouth off back at Symonds in the manner he did? No. And he got slapped a fine for the lesser Level 2.8 offence which refers to “obscene, offensive or seriously insulting language”.
The facts are that both Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke accept that Harbhajan Singh said something in his native toungue that they did not understand. Both of them admit that Singh said something that sounded like “big monkey”. In fact, the transcript of Michael Clarke’s statement, in Mike Proctor’s original hearing, indicates that he heard things being said that he did not hear or comprehend which he referred to as “something something something”. And then he heard the words “big monkey”.
The fact is that Andrew Symonds himself accepted that Sachin Tendulkar of all the participants was closest to Harbhajan Singh during the course of the heated exchange. Tendulkar said that he heard the heated exchange that included swearing between the two main subjects, initiated by Symonds. He also said that he did not hear the word “monkey” or “big monkey” but that he heard Harbhajan Singh use a term in his native tongue “teri maki” (pronounced with a “n”).
The judge needed to be sure that the allegations could indeed be upheld. If he was left with an “honest and reasonable uncertainty” then he should have ruled in favour of Harbhajan Singh.
The problem here was compounded by the fact that of the three Australian players that heard the words “big monkey”, none of them could recall any other words that were said by either party! Which is somewhat strange. Justice Hansen finds this a bit surprising and states, “This is a little surprising in the context where there was a reasonably prolonged heated exchange. Indeed Mr Clarke went so far as to say that he did not hear Mr Symonds say anything. Given Mr Symonds’ own acceptance that he initiated the exchange and was abusive towards Mr Singh, that is surprising. This failure to identify any other words could be because some of what they were hearing was not in English.”
The balance of probability indicates, therefore, that it is probable Harbhajan Singh did indeed use the words “teri maa(n) ki”.
Justice Hansen, in his findings criticises Andrew Symonds for provoking the incident.
The really interesting segment of the ruling is this one below (reproduced here):
Given that is the view of the complainant it is hard to see how the requisite elements of 3.3 could be satisfied. However, given it is an objective interpretation that is not the end of the matter. I must consider if the “ordinary person” would have been offended in a 3.3 sense. That again requires a look at context. Mr Singh had innocently, and in the tradition, of the game acknowledged the quality of Mr Lee’s bowling. That interchange had nothing to do with Mr Symonds but he determined to get involved and as a result was abusive towards Mr Singh. Mr Singh was, not surprisingly, abusive back. He accepts that his language was such as to be offensive under 2.8. But in my view even if he had used the words “alleged” an “ordinary person” standing in the shoes of Mr Symonds who had launched an unprovoked and unnecessary invective laden attack would not be offended or insulted or humiliated in terms of 3.3.
In other words, Justice Hansen seems to have said that even if Harbhajan Singh had used the words “big monkey”, at Andrew Symonds, given that the latter had “launched an unprovoked and unnecessary invective laden attack”, he would not be offended or insulted!
Perhaps I am reading this wrong!
Justice Hansen even accuses Symonds of breaching a handshake deal made when Harbhajan allegedly first called him a monkey in India.
Harbhajan Singh has a problem and this needs to be addressed. He is an ill-tempered hot-head and needs to be counselled.
At the same time, it would be wrong for Peter Lalor and the Australian media to ignore that Andrew Symonds has a problem too. And this needs addressing pronto. Symonds can’t sit on a pedestal placed at 35,000 ft above sea level and preach eloquently on appropriate forms of celebration (cf: Indian post-Twenty20 celebrations) and then carry on like a pork chop after his teams’ Sydney victory. And did anyone see his war-dance when he got Kumble out at Perth? How can this man talk about appropriate post-victory celebrations?
I didn’t see Peter Lalor rushing off to interview Symonds’ mum at that point in time! But he got some choice words out of Harbhajan Singhs’ mother and proceeded to pillory and mock it.
Did Harbhajan Singh’s mother say that she was relieved that her son had made a “derogatory remark about his opponent’s mother’s vagina” (as Peter Lalor writes in his blog)? No. She said, “I am very happy today. It is the victory of truth. I was anxious before the verdict came, but now I am more at peace. I knew God was with us and I had full faith that my son would come out clean.”
What is the “truth” that she talks about? The truth is that there is no evidence to suggest that her son is a racist. Period.
It is easy to mock. Anyone can invade the privacy of another person’s home, stick a mike under her nose, get some choice words out of her and then proceed to pillory the innocent subject who said what she did. To write responsibly and with empathy is not really hard. But it calls for courage. It calls for dignity. It calls for a code of ethics.
And on the topic of mockery. What is with this squeaky-voiced Indian TV reporter? What does a squeaky voice have to do with the price of fish anyway?
Let us stick to the facts please? Court rulings are based on fact, not allegations, anger and opinions. Did Harbhajan Singh say something racist? We will never know. The Kangaroo Court set up by Mike Proctor, a man not trained in things legal, decreed “beyond reasonable doubt” that Singh did villify. That was a wrong ruling — we all know that now. It was wrong because natural justice was not served. The man did not review all the evidence properly enough to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt”. And yet, he pronounced his ruling “beyond reasonable doubt”. That is a huge call to make. And it was made by a man that just did not know.
In any case, the initial ruling by Mike Proctor got thrown out. Thankfully natural justice was served. A proper court indicated that that initial ruling was a mistake. There simply wasn’t enough incontrovertible evidence to suggest that Harbhajan Singh did say what he was purported to have said. On the contrary, there was some evidence to suggest that, on the balance of probability, Harbhajan Singh did say something abusive in his native tongue, when provoked needlessly, that may have seemed to an untrained ear to have sounded like “monkey”.
End of story. Time for all of us to accept that and move on.