In my Day-2 report on the ongoing SCG Test, I talked about a strange passage in play in which Harbhajan Singh was involved in on-field chats with a whole lot of Australian players. There was certainly some niggle and carry-on there. Harbhajan Singh was batting at the time. No one seemed sure what was going on at the time. The umpire Mark Benson covered his mouth as he spoke to Harbhajan Singh (so that, one assumed, he could not be lip-read or no nearby mikes could pick up what he said).
This was all very strange indeed!
Overnight, it seems that this was due to an alleged rascism charge levelled against Harbhajan Singh. The ‘victim’, it is said, is Andrew Symonds.
In something that could potentially take the sheen off a brilliant Test match thus far, Andrew Symonds has confirmed that he was racially abused by Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan Singh denied it immediately.
The Australians are also accusing Harbhajan Singh of having hit Brett Lee with his bat while running between the wickets. This was the incident that allegedly started off the sledge-match.
If proven guilty — I am not sure how Mike Proctor could prove Harbhajan Singh guilty of the offence without the aid of listening devices — Harbhajan Singh could be banned for between 2 and 4 Test matches (or 4 and 8 ODIs). The offence is for “language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, gender, colour, descent or national ethnic origin.”
Sachin Tendulkar, who was batting with Harbhajan Singh at the time, brushed the incident aside and had this spin on the incident, which, he indicated may have been sparked off by Harbhajan Singh giving Brett Lee a pat on his backside.
His take on the incident was that the conversation went something like this:
Symonds: “You seem to be very friendly with our bowlers.”
Harbhajan: “Aren’t you trying to be friends with me now? I’m a bowler, as well.”
Malcolm Conn, from The Australian, leads with this as his headline and shows that he is from the same school of writing as Peter Lalor in this article when he suggests that perhaps Sourav Ganguly should be banned too, for showing disgust at himself for being out. I wonder how many times he has asked for a ban on Lleyton Hewitt in the same set?
We at i3j3Cricket have always maintained that rascism of all sorts should be banned on cricket grounds, regardless of the provocation. If Andrew Symonds was indeed called a “monkey” by Harbhajan Singh and if it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt, Harbhajan Singh has to do time. There are no two ways about it.
However, instead of jumping up and down, I would have expected Malcolm Conn to listen to what Sachin Tendulkar had to say on the matter too rather than immediately start to paint Harbhajan Singh as a confirmed perpetrator of a crime. This sort of sensationalism sells newspapers, but I would have thought that The Australian had higher editorial standrads!
With a person like Sachin Tendulkar as character witness — after all, Tendulkar was there when it all happened, I can’t see Harbhajan Singh copping it for this offence.
I personally can’t wait for the day when the ICC bans sledging of all sorts and at all levels of cricket. Let us assume that Andrew Symonds was indeed issued with a racial slur by Harbhajan Singh — after all Harbhajan Singh is innocent until proven guilty. Our hypothesis at i3j3Cricket is that a racial sledge (as we have now or as we had against Darren Lehmann) or a sledge involving ones mother or sister or brother or wife (as we had against Glen McGrath in the Sarawan incident) is a logical conclusion to any sledge-escalation. Do we want that? Can we tolerate that? There are no lines in the sand. Sledging is not covered in any cricket rule book. So it just can’t be on. Any back chat between bowler and batsman ought to be stamped out on the cricket field. If a team want to “mentally disintegrate” another team, is a bat and ball and hands not enough? If the tools of cricket are not sufficient, then let us also not talk about “lines in the sand”. There are no lines in the sand! The mafia cannot ask for a book to be written on good and bad ways of killing. Killing is unlawful. Period.
Our good friend from The Australian, Peter Lalor, has got in on the act too, with a report and an opinion-article on Harbhajan Singh! In the opinion-piece, he traces the origins of the Harbhajan Singh V Ricky Ponting aggro. In an article that traces the rise and fall and rise of Harbhajan Singh’s career (similar to a piece that Channel 9 did on Harbhajan Singh a day previously), he traces all of Harbhajan Singh’s past dark incidents.
Peter Lalor asks what it is about the Australians that sends Harbhajan Singh’s eyes into a spin! As a self-proclaimed lover of a good fight, I’d have thought that the answer was bleeding obvious to Peter Lalor! I for one do not care what Harbhajan Singh or V. V. S. Laxman do against Kenya and Bangladesh. I want them to reserve their best for when they play the champion team — Australia! Perhaps it is Peter Lalor’s that go into a spin when he sees Harbhajan Singh?
Peter Lalor’s closing remarks in that article are a bit odd… He says, “Unlike other Sikhs in the side, he is conservative and adheres to the religious demands that his hair be covered and uncut, although when he shot an advertisement in 2006 without the patka, it caused an outcry with the main Sikh religious board demanding an apology and activists burning his effigy.”
How many other Sikhs are there in the team?