Harbhajan Singh's appeal against being found guilty of racism by ICC Match Referee Mike Procter, will revolve around a few basic points — the lack of audio-video evidence in the matter and the fact that the two umpires disclaimed all knowledge of hearing any racist comment being primary.
“The appeal is actually a factual matter,” a source connected to the matter told the HT on Thursday. “We’ve pointed out that it’s a very strange situation, one where Mike Procter took private notes and did not record evidence. Harbhajan’s case is that in the view of the lack of audio-video evidence and the fact that the two umpires did not hear it, the presumption should have been ‘I didn’t say it’.”
Then again, he added, was the fact that Sachin Tendulkar, who understands the same language as Harbhajan, said he did not say it (the monkey comment).
The Indians are also banking on the fact that the Appeals Commissioner will have lots of discretion and will take all the points that Procter chose to overlook into account. “In this case, by Indian standards of law, two views are possible,” the source continued. “In which case, a sentence cannot be given because of the benefit of the doubt. There has to be absolute certainty beyond reasonable doubt that someone is guilty as charged.” In this case, it is believed that despite what Procter said, there was more than reasonable doubt.
In different legal ways, the Indians are making the same core point throughout their appeal but will be backing this up with more in the course of the presentation of that appeal.
They believe that broadly, the others “wanted to deflect attention from the argument of bad umpiring and therefore, converted the altercation into one of racism”. This, incidentally, has been “obliquely indicated” in the appeal.
As of now, it has not yet been finalised as to whether a lawyer will be present to state India’s case or not or who that lawyer will be. The Indian camp is waiting to see whether the hearing will be in person or there will be an initial telecomm hearing. They will then take
Meanwhile, the Indian camp is also somewhat wary of sitting down to make peace with the Aussies, having a handshake and then finding something else blowing up just before the Perth Test to get them to lose focus.
They are certain that the Symonds-Harbhajan incident was stage-managed. “Why is Bhajji always targeted?” asked a player. “Why is Symonds always involved in these incidents?” The Indians believe that the Aussies will never target someone like Tendulkar or Dravid or Kumble. “They know Bhajji is a hothead of sorts and after being taunted a few times, they’ll get a reaction from him that will put him off his focus. They work to a plan.”
Still, the Indian players are willing to get on with playing cricket at Perth and putting the acrimonious stuff aside, if the Australians do the same. “But we’ll be watching matters carefully,” said a player.