Monkeygate: The Harbhajan Singh Saga

Once again, the key actors in this sordid racism saga were involved in this latest episode. Cricket Australia, ICC, BCCI, Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, the Press…

The scene had shifted to Adelaide. The posturing was somewhat different. Some were approaching it with equanimity. Some were just tired. Some were angry. Some were sang froid.

But, for the first time in this saga, we had a properly trained legal professional handling the case.

In the end, Harbhajan Singh was cleared of the racism charge.

But the BCCI looked like totally ugly school-yard bully when it chartered a plane to take its players back home if the appeals court did not find in Harbhajan Singh’s favour. Their ODI specialist players, like Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Sree Santh, Praveen Kumar, et al, who had arrived in Melbourne, were whisked to Adelaide in a “show of solidarity”. A chartered plane lay waiting in Adelaide, its engine revved up, in the event that the appeal did not go in India’s favour!

I agree with Peter Roebuck that this stance by the BCCI was “abominable”. What is required all around is strong, ethical, responsible leadership. The BCCI controls more than 70% of the world games’ revenues. The power that comes with this territory has to be used in a responsible manner. I am afraid the BCCI has let India down, yet again, by posturing in the manner that it has. It is all a bit sad really.

The initial ruling in this case was by a Kangaroo Court and it was flawed. I could understand the Indian anger and the disappointment when Team India performed a “sit in” at its Sydney Hotel. However, this was a proper court that was in progress in Adelaide. It was presided by an independent person of honour and experience. To not show respect for the law and the courts and to threaten to take its bat and ball and go home in the event of an unsavoury ruling in Adelaide was, in my view, grotesque. The BCCI is in urgent need of effective leadership, I am afraid.

Everyone anywhere with half a brain knew — as night follows day — that the finding by John Hansen’s court was totally inevitable. It was inevitable that the Harbhajan Singh appeal would be successful. There just wasn’t enough proof to justify the “beyond reasonable doubt” pronouncement that Mike Proctor made originally.

The whole initial process that the ICC put in place to hear the case smacked of a naivety that does not show the organisation in good light. The ICC needs to toughen its stand on procedures such as this. The game deserves it. The ICC owes it to the game.

The ICC is painted in even more shocking light now. It has since emerged that Mike Proctor is believed to have pleaded with Malcolm Speed, the ICC Chief Executive, that the initial case be heard in a proper legal setting. Instead, we had a Kangaroo Court being presided by a man who was not trained in things legal. We had a strong pronouncement of justice when the evidence was shonky and when there was doubt. The man played the emotion card and not the rational card. He was not trained. The man was made to look silly. The ICC had dredged up and conjured yet another scapegoat.

Justifiably there is anger in the Australian camp. The Australian players were sure that Harbhajan Singh used the “monkey” word. Singh denied it. Both deserved a fair hearing. They got it. They just need to accept the ruling and move on.

Did Harbhajan Singh actually say what he did? We had a few readers on our blog who are sure that Harbhajan Singh said it. How are they sure when the court ruled that there was no tangible evidence that he said it! Paranoia even reached comical proportions when a few readers suggested that the news was broken in Indian nwes channels even before judgement was made!

In the end, it does not matter what you or I think may or may not have happened. A court of law had ruled. Those who do not like it, need to take a pill and move on. Opinions and paranoia do not count in a court of law. Facts do. Justice Hansen’s ruling states that on all the evidence submitted before him, “the charge of a Level 3.3 offence was not proven but that Harbhajan should be charged with a Level 2.8 offence instead.”

We can speculate till the cows come home on whether the word “monkey” was used. It will not change anything. We need to accept it and move on.

As Peter Roebuck says, “Court cases are about fact, not stories or opinions or allegations or interpretations or guesses. Once the microphones and umpires did not back up the charges, the case was doomed.

The pity is that this was doomed from the start. Given the ICC’s incompetence, the case has dragged on for this long.

In my own personal view, if something was indeed said, a head-kick-in by Anil Kumble after a strong word from Ricky Ponting would have had a much better effect than all this needless posturing. But that is all history and is currently irrelevant.

The Australian players are angry at the BCCI for flexing its muscles. One un-named player is reported to have said to The Age, “The thing that pisses us off is that it shows how much power India has. The Aussie guys aren’t going to make it (the accusation) up. The players are frustrated because this shows how much influence India has, because of the wealth they generate. Money talks.”

There is one way for the Australian players to show their collective anger and disgust at this ruling: they could tear up that lucrative IPL contract that the BCCI slapped on the desks of Australian players! That will teach them bullies!

That would be radical step by the Australian players — these fine, upstanding gentlemen who do everything the right way. That would be the ethical thing to do perhaps?

However, it is most likely that the Australian players, including the one that was reportedly “pissed off” will queue up and play in the IPL.

Money talks. Life goes on.

— Mohan

31 responses to “Monkeygate: The Harbhajan Singh Saga

  1. BCCI flexing muscles sets a very bad precedent for Cricket.

    How can ICC enforce any rule – say on Chucking – then SL will pull out of a tour ?

    ICC should have held a proper hearing after Sydney test, instead of Mike Proctor.

    Regarding this Harbhajan episode – Aussies should stop their sledging. This was pointed out by Ranatunga

    Ranatunga, a former Sri Lankan captain, called for a ban on sledging and hoped the Australians would learn their lessons from this controversy.

    “Australia have had these issues with some touring sides,” Ranatunga told Reuters. “History shows whenever they get it back, they struggle. Sometimes they also need to learn a lesson. I’m a great believer they should stop all shouting in the grounds.”

  2. We will find out if the Aussies have moved on when when India run onto the MCG for the 20/20 match and 90,000 people will have there say.

    That is when we will really find out what has happened to Australian and Indian relations.

  3. It was appalling the way BCCI handled the issue if they did handle the way it has been reported. It was a foregone conclusion that Hansen cannot pronounce Bhajji guilty based on the evidence available and I am not sure why BCCI even flexed its muscle. The less said about the ICC, the better. And the Australian players will boycott IPL when pigs will fly.

  4. India’s actions are redolent of the kind of imperialism the world has grown to hate the US for.

    This has been covered at length elsewhere. However, without wanting to labour the point any more, chartering a plane to whisk the players away in the event of a decision against is an overt declaration of a “My Way or the Long Island Expressway” attitude to due legal process. There might have been a justification, albeit poor, had it been the kangaroo court of Mike Proctor. But no, this time, we had a duly qualified legal eagle in charge of proceedings.

    And yet.

    The US tolerates the UN when the policies of both are in synch. However when it diverges, as with Iraq, it flouts every legal canon and in so doing, even invokes God as an ally in its cause.

    Very similar is India’s attitude to the ICC. All the ICC manuals agreed upon by the constituent nations come to nought if they fall foul of India’s interests.

    Maybe this bell curve needs to be ridden. Maybe there need to be a few more Sydneys before the rest of the cricketing world realises the appointed order, which is India first among nominal equals.

    As Jon Faine said this morning on ABC radio, Aussies cannot, on the one hand, rail against the high handedness of the Indians, and on the other, bury their snouts in the trough of the IPL.

    He who pays the piper calls the tune, agreed Red Symons.

    And the point of all this?

    It is natural that India will be calling the shots in World Cricket. This is inevitable. Period.

    However, let India learn from the mistakes of the US. Let it not be derided more than it is respected. It should stay away from naked displays of power, aggression and triumphalism-perhaps the mailed fist in a velvet glove is more appropriate.

    This should be easily possible for a land that has more potential cricketing ambassadors than most other nations.

    PS: This was going to be a post, however Mohan beat me to the draw with his similarly themed post. Thus mine is a comment!


  5. Srikanth Mangalam

    Why is anyone expecting rational behavior from the BCCI, all of a sudden?

    If Justice Hansen was in any way swayed by the financial muscle power of the BCCI, then it is a serious issue. If he was not, then how does BCCI’s behavior matter at all?

    Comparing BCCI’s approach to US behavior is ridiculous. People aren’t dying because BCCI ignores a supposedly “racist” comment by one of its players.

  6. I think Bhajji episode is a lesson for all concerned in cricket world. It is collective responsibility of ICC/CA and BCCI to have resolved the issue in whatever manner for the good of the game. Yes BCCI is a major revenue-runner for cricket in the world, but the fact of the matter is what happened in the cricket field in the form of “racial-slur” ought to be investigated thoroughly, whether through microphones or whatever manner. I for one genuinely feel that Indians have always been treated by the “so-called gentlemen” in a not a “fair-go” manner in the past several times. I also wouldn’t blame the BCCI entirely for how they dealt with this issue, but the issue squarely sits with ICC and CA too !!!!!!!!!

  7. @Srikanth

    I know it is a tall-order to expect rational behavior from the BCCI, all of a sudden! But we live in hope. I feel that an organisation with so much power should wield it appropriately, responsibly and ethically. Maybe I am just wrong in having such expectations!

    I have no doubt that Justice Hansen was swayed only by the facts that were presented in front of him. So no danger/worry there. This case should have been thrown out on day-dot! The fact that it wasn’t meant that we have the mess that we do now!

    However, the fact that the BCCI had a charterd plane on standby does not show the organisation in good light. Peoples’ perceptions are their realities and the perception here is that the BCCI was ready to pull the plug on this tour regardless of the outcome of a proper court. Now that is not on in any civilised society! The BCCI had a right to question and appeal against the ruling of a Kangaroo Court. It did.

    But not this one, in my view.

    BCCI’s behavior matters because perceptions matter. Perceptions here are that BCCI is a bad bully.

    Hope my stance is a bit clearer now?

    — Mohan

  8. The whole situation made BCCI look like bullies nd the crybaby attitude of Aussies didnt help either. We dont want to be seen as bullies, but we should flex our financial muscle if need be Instead , BCCI should’ve sued Symonds for defamation as well as pressed charges against Ponting,Clarke and co. for cheating and fought for banning sledging. Then aussies would’ve wilted under pressure and withdrawn the charges.

  9. This unnamed player- how real is he?
    The whole episode is marked by irresponsible reporting by the media.

  10. well, forget the test series. now we are ready for the one day series which will have our twenty20 players who have promised not to keep quiet if they are sledged. It will be great entertainment if aussies decide to sledge again.

  11. Agreed with the Mohan’s original post about BCCI …

    But in all this .. and talking of justice etc. I am surprised to find that Symonds (who it has been agreed started the whole thing).. Why has he not been booked for provking? Just because Harbhajan said something real nasty does it mean the person who started it does not count?

  12. Indians need to understand one thing in this matter.

    Australia has not cried foul! Australia has cried “no fair”.

    Singh’s charge was downgraded for very simple, legal reasoning.

    The Australian cricket team plays hard and fair, just the “new” breed of Indians say they want to!
    … hence the lack of understanding by the vociferous bloggers.

    Australia is not at the top because of sledging.

    They were at the bottom when they landed in India in 1987. Since then, they got hard, they got coached better, they trained harder than anyone else, they picked the right captains and they stuck with the right players.

    A nation the with the wealth and populous and passion of India has not gone close to Australia.
    Forget about 2001! Forget about drawing a series in Australia! Forget about “bad umping” costing you a 2-1 series win in 2008!

    Until you accept that in isolation you have achieved little more than a sensational victory in Perth and the “title” of the worlds new “cricket bully”, you must ensure that you keep ONE thing in mind.

    The BCCI couldnt organise a proper preparation for their team. They only just picked Sehwag to tour let alone play him in. They tried to insinuate umpiring caused there lost in Sydney (take another look at some of Tendulkar’s non-LBW’s).
    Australia didnt have an effective spinner let alone no McGrath etc. They picked the “world’s best batting line up (older than the Australians). They proclaimed to have the worlds best pace attack (plus to of the best spinners of the modern age).

    …. and the only glove you laid on Australia (the bullies) was

    well, we’re going home! the neutral umpires a cheat, you dont walk, you didnt take that catch, you celebrated your 16th win in a row too hard.

    To understand the ONE thing you need to be what you want to be!

    Loook within yourself! Not at who you want to be.

    No.2 is as high as you will get! Your batting line up is doomed and you wont pick some of these bowlers in October.

    But dont worry! You will still be rich.

    Wake up!

  13. chris

    We certainly write better English than you! If only I was able to decipher even half of what you said you may have come across as mildly coherent!

  14. If, as most people seem to suggest, BCCI was able to influence the verdict on this hearing using financial muscle, and CA was all ears for such incentives, I wonder why BCCI doesnt use it to buy off some match results in favor of India. Wouldnt that look much better for India than to have a forgettable person such as Harbhajan be the only beneficiary of this largesse.
    Moreover, it really doesnt matter whether Harbhajan is labeled a racist or not. Life in India is so fast paced, that people dont even notice whether the person they just passed by was a guy or a girl, let alone a hindu/muslim/christian/racist/black/brown et al. Sensitivity to such things as racism, in day to day life, are only consciously felt in places where it was practised as a way of society’s exsitence in the past.

  15. Bharath,

    So its only when racism is a conscious action it is real? This is a niave statement & allows for people to act in a way where if they are not conscious that their actions are offensive, eg BCCI response to monkey chants in the crowd, it can be fobbed off as something other than what it is racism.
    News Flash, Brown & Black peoples can be racists too.

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  25. If you KNOW you are out and you do not walk then that is cheating! as Ponting did May Not Be The best advertisement for cricket


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