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Bhajji to answer racial abuse claim

cricket Updated: Jan 05, 2008 11:09 IST

AFP
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India spinner Harbhajan Singh faces a charge of racial abuse against Australian player Andrew Symonds at a hearing here on Sunday, the International Cricket Council said.

The charge was laid after Harbhajan allegedly made a comment to Symonds, the only black member of the Australian team, during the second Test between the two nations at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.

The ICC, the sport's governing body, said the charge was laid by match umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor after close of play on the third day following a complaint by Australian captain Ricky Ponting.

Ponting's complaint referred to an incident after the 116th over of India's first innings when the off-spinner allegedly said something to Symonds, the details of which are not known.

Match referee Mike Procter said Saturday he has scheduled the hearing into the matter after the end of the Sydney Test on Sunday.

Procter said he had rescheduled the hearing, using his discretionary powers at the request of the India team manager to allow the tourists to sufficiently prepare for the hearing.

Off-spinner Harbhajan has denied he racially abused Symonds.

"I did not say anything racist. I do not know what is going on," he told Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

"I haven't done anything, we were just talking. It wasn't even sledging, it was just normal talk out on the cricket field. I was concentrating on my batting."

Symonds was subjected to monkey gestures from sections of the crowd during the last game of a seven-match one-day series in Mumbai in October after earlier receiving similar abuse during the fourth game at Vadodara.

Paceman Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who is not touring Australia, was involved in on-field verbal clashes with Symonds in the India series.

The incident appeared to reach a head shortly after Harbhajan raised his half century in Friday's last session. He went on to score 63.

Harbhajan began walking down the pitch after facing the final delivery of a Brett Lee over, gesturing to speak with the Australian allrounder.

He spoke briefly with Symonds, who was walking to the other end of the wicket to get into fielding position for the next over, before Harbhajan became involved in discussions with Ponting and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist mid-pitch.

Batting partner Sachin Tendulkar appeared to have words with Harbhajan at the time.

Umpire Benson then called out Harbhajan, but Benson covered his mouth to prevent television cameras from picking up what he said to the spinner, who appeared to deny any wrongdoing.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India is reportedly preparing a vigorous defence for Harbhajan.

The alleged offence falls under the section of the ICC Code of Conduct that refers to players or team officials 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.

If found guilty, Harbhajan could face a ban of between two and four Test matches or between four and eight one-day internationals, the ICC said.