It now transpires that Harbhajan Singh said, in his native Hindi/Punjabi, “abey teri maan ki ”.
At least, that’s what he and his team are saying.
And, as reader 10YearsLate says in the comments section of this Blogsite, for the uninitiated and the linguistically unaware, the Hindi/Punjabi swear phrase above roughly translates to: “ Hey, your mother’s …”.
“maan ki” is commonly (and unfortunately) heard in India — particularly North India — and sounds like “monkey”. Symmonds, no doubt, drew the monkey conclusion.
Well, that’s the case of the Indians anyway!
As 10YearsLate says, “Given that demeaning references to mothers, sisters and wives are kosher in the Australian sledging lexicon, this may be considered legit.”
I think it is worse than that.
[Tongue-in-cheek mode ON]
I actually think that Harbhajan Singh may have wanted to get closer to the Australians! His pre-tour cultural-briefings may have told him that there are three sure-fire ways to achieve this objective:
(a) tap someone’s bottom — a sure sign of mateship,
(b) say something nasty about someone’s mother or sister — only mates have sledge-rights on mothers and sisters,
(c) wait for the post-day drink-frenzy to make friends over glasses of beer.
Such sharing of beer and war-stories, visiting teams are told, are to be compulsorily had after the “what’s said on the field is left on the field” type “hard but fair” Australian way of playing!
He was a bit tired of all the beer that had been consumed in the tour up until then. Every word that was said up until then on the field had been drowned with these glasses of beer that just had to be consumed as war-stories were exchanged. Moreover, the drunken haze left him with not much money, a lot of friends — that he actually did not want — and not much memory of what was actually said the previous day! It was working well, in one sense, but for someone with not that much money and for someone not used to consuming as much beer as he was now forced to consume, it was all getting a bit too much!
So, he wanted to try another tack… He was batting well at this stage and had pulled his team out of trouble. He was willing to risk option (a) of patting someone’s backside. After surveying the field, his eyes focussed on Brett Lee’s well-appointed hind!
Rather than wait for the post-match drink-frenzy, he proceeded to tap Brett Lee on the bowlers’ well-appointed bottom. He may have chosen the right bottom to pat, but did not realise that Andrew Symonds had his eyes on that piece of real estate!
When Andrew Symonds saw this, he saw red! He proceeded to claim exclusive, perpetual and royalty-free rights for performing said task on Brett Lee’s bottom! He threw a sledge in Harbhajan Singh’s direction. Quite miffed at being reprimanded for his bum-tap and quite annoyed at having to now wait for the post-day what’s-said-on-the-field-is-left-on-the-field-drink-frenzy to make friends with this hard-but-fair bunch of muscular Australians, he proceeded to hurl the words “abey tere maan ki …” towards Andrew Symonds.
His pre-tour cultural briefings may have told him that if a bottom-pat didn’t work, an abuse would. After all, play “hard but fair” is the national way of playing!
So, it is likely that Harbhajan Singh may have wanted to start proceedings early in an anxious bid to not wait for the post-day “what’s said on the field is left on the field” drunken stupor!
Unfortunately, Andrew Symonds heard “maan ki” as “monkey” and, the rest, as we say is history.
It was Harbhajan Singh’s fault. He should have chosen Brad Hogg’s bum to pat. I doubt anyone in the Australian team would have been as protective of his backside real estate as they would be of Brett Lee’s.
[Tongue-in-cheek mode OFF]
Meanwhile, it also transpires that the two teams exchanged lists of offensive words prior to the series. And “bast**d” did not make the cut! So, Australia’s case will be that, it was perfectly kosher for Brad Hogg to utter that word in any statement flung in the direction of the Indians!
Section 3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct says:
Players and teams are barred from Using 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 or ethic origin.
The Indians will argue that the term “bast**d” is insulting because “it questions a person’s descent and is highly sensitive in the Indian cultural context”. Hence, they will argue that 3.3 is an appropriate level of offence to slap on Brad Hogg. This may not wash with the Australians. Read this, for example! Moreover, the Australians will say, if it was as big as the Indians are now making it out to be, it ought to have been on the pre-tour banned-words-list!
There is only one way out of all of this.
“The teams should tear up that catch agreement and should plonk the entire Oxford English dictionary, Cappeller’s Digital Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Websters Online Hindi Dictionary, etc into such pre-tour off-limits words-lists!”
That way, nothing will be said out there and the umpire will make alll calls on catches!