Harbhajan Singh pulled up on a “racism charge”…


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?

— Mohan

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8 responses to “Harbhajan Singh pulled up on a “racism charge”…

  1. Iif the two umpires DID NOT hear any offensive words and if the microphones DID NOT pick up any offensive words, it comes down to what Symonds allegedly heard vs Bhaji’s denial. Tendulkar’s evidence will be crucial ONLY if he had heard ALL the conversations in queswtion. Proctor should not initiate a report based on allegations by a player or a captain.

    I am not sure why the two umpires did not have a quite chat with the two players and leave it there. Symonds, at no time looked offended –going by TV pictures. I did see hayden come in say a few words and walk off without waiting for a reply—same as what he and McGrath did to Dravid in a cowardly manner , when M Slater claimed a catch at Chennai and Venkat looked on impotently. The match referee did not any action–until after a radio interview in Sydney, ICC BOss intervened and action was taken.

    There is also the element of an Aussie MISINTERPRETING what was said in INDIAN English by Bhaji.

    A BIG STORM in a CHAI cup ondeed.

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  4. Mohan,

    Good point on the sledge issue. Why is calling someone a monkey more offensive than abusing one’s mother or sister is beyond me. Time to get Punter and Roy some nappies.

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  6. I think this was a master stroke from Ricky ponting in my opinion. The Australian team was under the pump surrendering the first innings lead and 500 for the first time in a long time. They resort to the usual tactics gets some of it back and then some. Looked bad on them had to turn things around before the madia gets hold of it. Made the complaint first ” he called him a monkey” wow the feilder was just asking him a simple question and the batsmen call him that.
    10 points Ricky 3 points the rat pack (pup,haydos, Simmo) – 0 Team India and match referee.

  7. I tend to agree with these comments from one article I read:

    “The Australians have been sledging and abusing players with little censure for years, so there will be some sympathy towards Harbhajan for standing up to them. But in a world where racial friction can cause the death and destruction now being seen in Kenya, its use on a sports field is unacceptable, regardless of the provocation.

    Almost as disagreeable is the indignation that seems to possess Indian cricket and its millions of supporters every time their team suffers a setback they don’t like – in this case Harbhajan’s ban and the loss of a Test riddled with umpiring errors against both sides.

    The subtext, given the Indian board’s objection to Procter, as well as the umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson, is that they are the victims of racism. Mind you, they could find a racist plot in a packet of jelly beans – and nearly did at Trent Bridge last year when someone sprinkled a few at the edge of the pitch.

    Racism was also the accusation Pakistan used to whip up fervour against umpire Darrell Hair after the forfeited Oval Test 18 months ago, and it is one Asian countries seem to reach for too often when umpiring decisions or disciplinary matters go against them.

    India have been here before, once threatening to cancel the final Test of their 2001-2 tour to South Africa. Then, the match referee was Mike Denness, a former England captain, who had imposed penalties on six Indian players for code-of-conduct breaches, including a one-Test ban on Virender Sehwag for excessive appealing.”

    I do think Symonds is genuinely offended by what he sees as comments about his dark skin, due to his West Indian heritage, and possibly could have ignored the remark, but it is racism, and I guarantee if an Australian had caused a person with dark skin (like most Indians for example), a monkey, their reaction would be a lot worse than that from Symonds.

    As for whining about Clarke not walking when obviously out, I do recall some Indian players doing the exact same thing in this test match.

    Both teams need to pull their heads in and get on with cricket, but to assume it is all the Australians fault is to ignore India’s petulant behaviour, deliberate slow over rate and Harbhajan Singh’s conviction for calling Symonds a monkey. A lot of people say it is the Aussie’s word against the Indians, which is true, but to say Symonds, Ponting, Hayden, and particularly Gilchrist are all colluding to make up a complaint is ridiculous, while on the other hand it is easy to see someone accused not wanting to admit what he has done.

    The offended tone exhibited by Harbhajan as though he is a saint who could never possibly do anything like this misses the point that in a tight, hard fought sporting contest, things do get said, even by saints, which they later regret. To assume these things should be ignored by others though is too much.

    I think he did call Symonds a monkey, was caught out and probably regretted what he’d said instantly. Whenever someone carries on in the way the Indian team, management and sporting public has, it means players are vindicated in lying about what they have said, because they know they are so revered that they are able to get away with it.

    I find in life, whenever someone uses the defence “How dare you………to question me?”
    with an injured, offended tone, they have usually committed the offence which they are denying occurred.

  8. Tex

    Are you then saying that Ricky Ponting is guilty of being a cheat? For when he was asked questions about his integrity, he did say, “How dare you……..to question me”? Or words to that effect.

    Point well made Tex. I agree.

    — Mohan

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