Harbhajan Singh was on Monday officially kicked out of this year’s Indian Premier League for slapping S Sreesanth after the Mohali versus Mumbai match on Friday night.
<b1>Apart from banning him for 11 or 13 matches (in case Mumbai, by some miracle, make it to the finals), match referee and adjudicator Farokh Engineer also fined him his match fee for the game.
As Harbhajan (auctioned for approximately Rs 3.4 crore) will be paid for only two matches, he stands to lose at least about Rs 2.94 crore. That is, if he is paid for the first two games — he may have breached his contract with the Mumbai team for “bringing the game and team into disrepute”.
The fate of his international career continues to hang in balance. After seeking a separate explanation from Harbhajan, as the off-spinner “is a contracted player”, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday appointed a one-man panel to probe the incident.
“Advocate Sudhir Nanavati has been appointed as commissioner to make a preliminary inquiry, call for an explanation and submit his report within 15 days to Board president Sharad Pawar…,” BCCI secretary Nirajan Shah stated. The advocate was appointed after the Board received Harbhajan’s reply on Monday morning, almost 12 hours before deadline.
The Hindustan Times has learnt that Harbhajan was “apologetic” and pleaded guilty “for having done something which I don’t know how it happened”. In his reply, the off-spinner has not mentioned that he was provoked by Sreesanth.
The BCCI is said to be divided on what disciplinary action should be taken against the player. One group felt that Harbhajan “has had enough punishment with the IPL ban”, and that there was no need for him “to be punished twice for one mistake”.
The other lobby believed “this was the right time to set the disciplinary action straight”. This group is planning to cite the example of how the Pakistan board banned Shoaib Akhtar for 13 one-dayers for hitting Mohammad Asif with a bat after a dressing room brawl.
Harbhajan’s case, incidentally, is not being viewed favourably because he was already in the dock for a level 2.8 offence (the reduced charge after the Monkeygate controversy). Board insiders said the hardliners are likely to prevail. “Harbhajan will face stringent action” from the Board as well.
Insiders said Sreesanth, who got away on Monday due to lack of video evidence, also faces “strong action”, if it is found that he did anything during the game (and not just before the slap) to create tension.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in New Delhi, League Commissioner Lalit Modi said that Engineer, after examining the video footage and going through the statements from both sides, found Harbhajan guilty of a level 4.2 offence in the ICC Code of Conduct, which deals with physical assault.
Terming the offence a “very serious” one, Modi said, “… Just after the match, Harbhajan was shaking hands with all the Mohali players and Sreesanth was third among them. Instead of shaking hands with him he slapped him.”
The ‘slapgate’ fallout also hurt Mumbai coach Lalchand Rajput, who was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for violating “the spirit of the game”. “He (Rajput) was standing behind Harbhajan when he slapped Sreesanth and he did not do anything to prevent it,” said Modi.