Tag Archives: Monkeygate

Vale Australian Cricket?

Srikanth Mangalam wrote a brilliant piece on the disintegration of Australian Cricket yesterday. I loved his opening where he says, “If your resume states that you have spun a top atleast three times in your life, you would certainly qualify to play for Australia in the Ashes series.”

I abhor gloating, but I will take the bait — as Srikanth did — this one time. In the 1990s, I lost count of the number of times when I’ve not wanted to go in to work on a Monday (in Australia) for fear of being continually ridiculed by my Aussie colleagues for a(nother) pathetic show by Team India. When I said to one such colleague, “I don’t think it is acceptable to kick a guy when he is down”, his immediate reply was, “When else am I going to do it?”

Funny. But true!

The shoe is on the other foot. We can show a bit of grace, I suppose, but I am happy to stick it to the Aussies for a little while yet! Payback does feel good sometimes.

One aspect of the recent decline of Australian cricket that Srikanth Mangalam omitted is the fact that this entire period of slump has been presided by coach Tim Nielsen! And guess what? He has been awarded a 3-year extension until 2013! Why has he got this extension? Because he is the coach that took Australia from #1 in the ICC Test rankings to #5 — and the slide does not appear to have stopped! How is it possible that the coach gets a 3-year extension before even a single ball has been bowled in the all-important Ashes series? Well, I suppose Nielsen has consistency on his side — he has managed to string together a series of losses quite consistently!

The Australian selectors are panicking. Stuart McGill has come down on the selection panel like a ton of bricks. Soon, others will follow suit. If Australian cricket fans think that there is good news around the corner, please take a look at who is lurking around the dressing rooms: Greg Chappell! And we all know what he did with/to Team India!

I believe the Australian slide started on that fateful day in early-January 2008, when the world of cricket adopted a Gate of its own: MonkeyGate!

Almost since then, the Australian selectors have stolen the revolving door that the Team India selection panel used so effectively in the 1990s! Michael Beer will be the 10th Australian Test spinner used since the retirement of Shane Warne! Krejza looked good and Hauritz has the stats (except in India). But they have been revolved out! The Australian selectors are panicking — much like the Team India selectors did up until the 1990s — and the world of cricket is loving every second of this soap opera that is spiraling downwards and out of control.

The level of panic is so high that the selectors have turned to Michael Beer! I do know that beer is a fine Australian tradition. I am confident that the brown liquid does help the average Aussie drive away most pains, but most Aussies will know that the hangover from beer can linger for quite a while!

I am certain that the world of cricket needs a strong and vibrant Australia. I have no doubt about that. Test cricket is currently going through a slump and that is, in my view, due to the state of Australian cricket.

Rahul Bhattacharya, in an article in the Mint Lounge says it all. His piece starts off brilliantly. The hypothesis is quite clearly stated and Bhattacharya commences his arguments purposefully. He and then slides into a strange cackle, produces an incoherent set of arguments towards the middle and then slides into an immature oblivion — much like the slide in Australian cricket that he so bemoans. I believe Rahul Bhattacharya loses the plot when, in an article on the global slump in Test cricket, he devotes an entire chunk of his article to Ricky Ponting’s predilection for fellow Tasmanian cricketers!

Be that as it may, I believe Test cricket needs a strong Australia. It certainly was exciting when Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Glen McGrath played together.

Test cricket needs that kind of excitement! Today, instead of Marshall-Holding-Garner-Roberts or even McGrath-Lee-Gillespie, the best we have is Steyn-Morkel-Parnell! Instead of Prasanna-Bedi-Chandrashekar we have Harbhajan-Ojha or worse still Beer-North or Hauritz-Smith!

The Australian domestic system is too robust to see the situation slide to a point where Zimbabwe and Bangladesh start licking their lips in anticipation of a series against the Aussies! There is an abundance of talent in the Australian domestic scene. This needs to be, once again, harnessed, toughened and sharpened in a style similar to that which Alan Border adopted in the mid-80s. That fine tradition of tough Australian cricketers, so perfectly instilled by Border, was then carried on by Taylor and Waugh. Today, Ricky Ponting has lost it all. That is primarily because, in my view, Ponting is no Alan Border. Ponting is a good captain of a good team filled with good/strong individuals. The job now requires a tough, no-nonsense guy who is not given to existing in a prolonged and continual state of extreme denial. The job requires someone who has an internal mirror that offers nothing but uncompromisingly candid introspection. Ponting, unfortunately, does not possess mirrors. He is far too easily prone to denial-driven-operations — witness his reactions to criticism after his disastrous decision in the Nagpur Test against India in 2008!

Perhaps the answer is that Ponting has to go as captain. If he goes as captain, Australia may buck the trend and have him continue as a player. That is hard to say. However, what is needed is a no-nonsense captain who is uncompromisingly tough; a captain that can transform boys into men. Just as South Africa made an extremely bold decision in appointing Graeme Smith as captain a few years back, Australia needs to make a tough decision; a decision with tremendous foresight and far-reaching consequences.

And what has this got to do with India and Indian cricket? As I say, the world of cricket needs a tough Australia. To have India as #1 when Australia is weak means a hollow #1 for me.

That said, I am enjoying sticking the boot in right now and perhaps for the next few weeks.

— Mohan

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Is India really the crazed mad bully of World cricket?

It should have been a terrific four-match series between two sides that were going hammer-and-tongs at each other; two of the best sides in international cricket today. The two sides boasted some fine cricketers. It is conceivable that Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag would walk into any cricket team in the world. These were fine cricketers playing a terrific game. They should have been engaged in a terrific contest. They should have left a wonderful memory of a hard-fought, yet, attractive series that lingers in the minds well after the actors have left the field.

Indeed, the four-match Test series gave a lot to savour. We saw some imaginative captaincy from the two captains. We saw Anil Kumble emerge as a statesman and an ambassador of his team. We saw Ricky Ponting captain his team brilliantly in snatching a tense victory in Sydney. We saw two stunning centuries and in excess of 400 runs from Sachin Tendulkar who was accorded a standing ovation everytime he walked on to bat! We saw some sustained spells of accurate, penetrative, and at times, sensational fast bowling from Brett Lee. We witnessed the kind of elegance from the blade of V. V. S. Laxman that makes people draw breath and exclaim “how did he do that?” in several of his digs. We some imposing batting from Matthew Hayden who dug deep to score centuries almost at will. We saw the old, and sometimes forgotten, warrior in the moder-day spin-trinity, Anil Kumble, reach his 600th wicket. We saw a Team India that was down 0-2 in the series that pulled off a sensational victory in Perth, the traditional strong-hold of the Australians. We saw a kid who was still in the wet-behind-his-ears stage of his international career, who was denied a wicket when a batsman was on not much, walk up to the same batsman an congratulate him when he left the field, having made 162! In the very next match, we saw that same kid bowling one of the best spells of fast bowling that I have seen in a long time to Ricky Ponting. Surely, on another day, this would have been the kind of story that sells romance novels the world over!

Instead, a day after the series, there was much posturing, much finger pointing, much debate, much acrimony. The word bully was used so often that real school-yard bullies would be within their rights to demand another term to elevate their status to a newer high!

The series had so much grit, fight, skill, romance, determination and class that it ought to be right up there as marquee series go. Instead it will be remembered as one that was dominated by recriminations, court-room-hearings, finger-pointing, derogatory remarks, cultural hatred, racial hatred and much more. We had lost perspective. It was, as Dileep Premachandran writes in The Guardian, a “tawdry affair”, in which “there were no winners”.

In the aftermath of the tour, Monkeygate, the Harbhajan Singh racism saga has dominated sport pages and blogs and radio talkback — not only in India and Australia but the rest of the cricketing world too! Much has been written and said.

In these pages that have been written and consumed, India, through the BCCI, has been labeled a crazed, mad, bully of world cricket. This may or may not be right. But then that is the perception the world over; one that needs to be critically — dispassionately too, perhaps — analysed and assessed. There are as many as five articles in todays’ The Age and The Australian that touch on this topic. There will be, no doubt, many others that ask the same question. It is a question that does need to be asked for the future stability of world cricket.

But, lest we forget, let us remind ourselves that this is not the first time world cricket has been “held to ransom”. In the modern era, one could argue that Packergate was the first time that the UN-style ICC was held by the proverbials. In more recent times, we have had several incidents that came close to splitting apart world-cricket. I list them here and, for the sake of completeness, provide the nations that were involved as well as a brief description of the episode.

In this list, I do not include one-off school-yard fights like Ponting’s robust and angry questioning of Englands’ specialist-fielder tactics in the Ashes 2005 series, Andre Nel and Sree Santh going hammer-and-tongs and each other, Gavaskar threatening to pull his team off the MCG, Jeyygate, etc. I am concentrating here on issues that threatened to blow world-cricket apart; storms in tea-cups are what the rest were!


  • The year 1998-99 saw Muthiah Muralitharan being no-balled in Australia by an Australian umpire, Darryl Hair. The saga threatened to split world cricket apart. As a continuing part of this saga, Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, a man who had built a reputation of standing up to his opponents, refused to continue the tour and also threatened to pull his team from an Adelaide ODI when Australian umpire, Ross Emerson, called Muthiah Muralitharan again for an “illegal delivery”. The Sri Lankan players, who had copped the goings on in their tour thus far, felt, rightly or wrongly, victimised by the Australian umpires — for here was Muthiah Muralidharan bowling leg-breaks when he was called!
  • India was outraged when Mike Denness, the match referee, banned Virender Sehwag for excessive appealing in a Test match agaist South Africa in 2001. On instructions from Jagmohan Dalmiya, the then BCCI President — another man who, like Ranatunga, loved seeing eye-to-eye with his counterparts from Australia and England — India included Virender Sehwag in the next Test match! It was played as an unofficial Test match! Mike Denness was locked out of the Test match! In that match Mike Denness, the former England captain, sanctioned six Indian players, with Virender Sehwag receiving a one-match ban and Sachin Tendulkar receiving a one-match suspended sentence for ball tampering! This wasn’t the first time that an Indian had been sanctioned by a match referee. So why was there outrage and effigy-burning at Denness’s decision? What bought things to an ugly head was the seeming imbalance of Mike Deness’s decisions. In that same match, we had South African captain Shaun Pollock who had appealed even more vociferously, aggressivelyand continually for an lbw against V V S Laxman in India’s first innings! We saw, therefore, that the oft-repeated bias-argument which suggested the “R” word in the actions of match referees. The Indians felt, rightly or wrongly, victimised.
  • Enter Shoaib Akthar, the Pakistan speedster: He was banned for throwing by an ICC committee that was chaired by Bobby Simpson. Jagmohan Dalmiya, by then the President of the ICC, gave Akthar the equivalent of a presidential pardon and that allowed Pakistan to continue to field Akthar in its games! Once again, world cricket was threatened by brinkmanship. A crisis was averted.
  • A by-now familiar actor, Darryl Hair, re-enters the scene in the most recent saga that threatened to split world cricket: The ball-tampering fiasco which was fuelled by England’s suspicions resulted in Darryl Hair effectively labelling the Pakistan team as cheats. The resulting no-show by the Pakistanis, who had Bob Woolmer as coach then, resulted in the first forfeit in international cricket! Pakistan moved to have the umpire removed. He was not only removed, but was sacked from ever umpiring again!
  • And now, Monkeygate…

Malcolm Knox reviews some of these episodes in an article in The Age (Saturday 2 Feb 2008).

There is a pattern here. Sri Lanka have been involved in one spat. Pakistan has been involved in two spats. India has been involved in two spats. The people at the other end have been, in order listed above Australia (notionally), England (notionally), Australia (notionally), Australia (notionally) and Australia. At a surface-level, there is a pattern here; a pattern of both mistrust and abuse. There is also a pattern of incompetence on the part of the ICC. One needs to just scratch at the surface of all of these episodes to know that the ICC has a lot to answer for, although, as Malcolm Knox says, “The ICC might be a convenient punching bag” for everyone. It is, no doubt, a powerless and toothless organisation.

We have to accept that teams from the sub-continent have grievances (some legitimate and some not so legitimate) with the colonial manner in which the game has been organised and run in the past. There are racist undercurrents and there are undercurrents that the game was invented to serve the best interests of England and Australia and their friends.

But to call India a bully because of its current financial clout would be to ignore the foundations, the symptoms as well as the cause of much of these grievances. After all, Sri Lanka and Pakistan do not have financial clout. And yet, they brought the game to its knees not once, but three times in the recent past!

As Malcolm Knox says, Bodyline itself wasn’t about money!

And if it was only about money, world cricket had better be scared. Very scared! For the amount of money in Indian cricket is set to double — or even treble — over the next 10 years with the introduction of the Indian Premier League. Bollywood actors and cash-rich Indian business houses have splurged money on the eight IPL teams. Some of them have invested nearly $80m in their team franchise. They will spend much more than that on buying players! They will also expect their money to multiply to $800m over a 10-year period! So, if we think that the BCCI is flexing its muscles only because of the money it controls now, we should be prepared for it to flex its whole body in ten years’ time.

But to assign money as the root cause of much of this would be to, unfortunately, miss the point. The 1999 flexing of muscles by Sri Lanka is a case in point. There was, then, a perception of injustice. That perception persists. The ICC and the world game needs to fix that first.

No doubt India is cash-rich. Nike paid $43 million to kit the side for five years! No other team can match that in the world of sport! The Indian cricket team is cash rich and sponsors continue to queue up to be associated with the team. The BCCI knows it has this money too and often uses this often to get the ICC to act the way it wants it to.

Most Indians will be, as Dileep Premachandran says, uncomfortable with both the power as well as the BCCI’s excessive greed. India is not a country that has thrived on having power on the world stage in any sphere — leave alone cricket. Nor has it demonstrated a need to indulge in “naked displays of strength”.

However, across the sub-continent there is a new brigade that is bursting through. A new brigade that is more confident. A new brigade that is more brash. A new brigade that is not quite like the V. V. S. Laxman who will smile placidly when told that his mother is a so-and-so and still manage to flick the next ball gloriously for a four! A new brigade that wants to look its tormentor in the eye — not because the new-brigade is necessarily good, but just because they know they can! A new brigade that has, in Harsha Bhogle’s words, an abiding memory “of visiting journalists and cricketers coming to India and making fun of us. We were a country finding our feet, we were not confident; we seethed within but we accepted. The new generation in India is not as accepting — it is prouder, more confident, more successful. Those bottled up feelings are bubbling through.”

As Dileep Premachandran says in The Age, there is certainly “a new, prosperous brigade that takes perverse pride in sticking it to the old world.” A new brigade that can do what their parents wanted to, but could not!

The sub-continent has vivid memories of being dictated to by an imperial power; of being sneered at by visiting teams; of being continually mis-understood. The food wasn’t good enough. The organisation wasn’t good enough. The travel wasn’t good enough. The hotels weren’t good enough. The grounds and facilities weren’t good enough. The pitches weren’t good enough. The logistics wasn’t good enough. The umpiring wasn’t good enough. The crowds weren’t good enough. The accent wasn’t good enough. The mores weren’t good enough… The list is endless. And it is not merely about people lampooning the accent. It runs deeper than that.

India and Australia head the new order in the game. India has the money and an emerging talent. Australia is right at the peak of its prowess as a cricketing and sporting nation. And that prowess shows no sign of diminishing. The two nations, together, have a responsibility to the game — to grasp it out of the colonial shackles of mistrust and misunderstanding. A mistrust that inbreeds a desire for the sub-continentals to square the historically imbalanced ledger.

In this hour of need, Indian cricket and world cricket needs ethical and responsible leadership. But world cricket needs to cleanse itself of its deep-rooted mistrust and suspicion too. This mistrust and suspicion is symmetric. There are no one-way streets in this town! If these suspicions are not removed, we will have Bodyline, PackerGate, MuraliGate, DennesGate, ChuckerGate, TamperGate, MonkeyGate… over and over again, with the old-world on the one side and the sub-continent on the other.

I was heartened though, by a comment from Inderjit Singh Bhindra in todays’ Australian when he said, “If we are feeling bad about something we should not repeat the same thing. It’s no remedy for what has happened in the past to repeat the past. We have to learn from history. I have been a student of history and we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes.”

Inderjit Singh Bhindra, former BCCI President — and peace-maker in the Adelaide pit-stop of the Monkeygate train — is the man that most people tip as Malcolm Speed’s replacement when the Australian’s term, as Cheif Executive of the ICC, ends soon. This thought might send shivers down the spine of people who think that India has too much control of world cricket already! Especially if we pitch that alongside the known fact that Sharad Powar, the current BCCI President will, in 18 months’ time, be President of the ICC!

In particular, Australians may feel that Bhindra’s role in brokering a peace in Adelaide with Creagh O’Connor, the Chairman of Cricket Australia, undermined the whole judicial process. To say that would be to be in contempt of Justice Hansen’s court. However, it is quite likely that, in Bhindra, India does have a statesman and a leader that is able to bridge sub-continental emotions with old-world ways. Both need to be understood and it is likely that this moderate would be one that brokers a greater understanding and delivers stability.

In an interview to Mike Coward from The Australian today, I. S. Bhindra says “What we want is on the basis of every country being equal. We want equity, justice and fair play. We don’t want money to be the main factor propelling the game of cricket. Of course money is important, it is important everywhere. But it shouldn’t be important to the extent of dictating decision-making.”

We all await a better future for world cricket. The game deserves it. And the best place to start much of this repair would be at the ICC. If not, there will be many more engrossing series that will be forgotten — only controversies will remain in our collective minds.

— Mohan

An animated cartoon on Monkeygate…

Peter Nicholson, the cartoonist for The Australian has recently created an animated cartoon on Monkeygate.

Quite creative…

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— Mohan

Harbhajan Singh’s mother in Peter Lalor’s frame…

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.”

Indeed.

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.

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