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Harbhajan Singh banned for three Tests matches

Match referee Mike Proctor bans Bhajji after finding him guilty of racially abusing Andrew Symonds, reports Kadambari Murali.

cricket Updated: Jan 07, 2008 11:41 IST
Kadambari Murali

Match referee Mike Proctor banned Harbhajan Singh for three Test matches after finding him guilty of racially abusing Andrew Symonds at the end of a five-hour hearing late on Sunday night.

No audio or video evidence was used that conclusively proved the charge against Bhajji, assistant manager of the Indian team MV Sridhar said. Proctor appears to have gone with the Australians in what was a case of one side’s word against the other’s.

The Indian Board will appeal the ban within 24 hours. The tour has degenerated into near irreparable bitterness, but is officially still
on.

Proctor’s judgment came at the end of a day that saw India lose the match after Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were done in by two more horrific decisions by umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson. Following India’s protest, the ICC has now withdrawn Bucknor from duty in the Perth Test.

At the end-of-day press conference, Ricky Ponting reacted with irritation and rudeness to questions on whether the Australians had played the game in the right spirit. Anil Kumble gave words to the feeling of the entire Indian side, officials and Indian journalists when he said “I think only one side is playing with the spirit of the game.”

After ban order, team manager Chetan Chauhan said: “We will appeal immediately, as soon as we get a copy of the written order. Bhajji can play pending the appeal.”

At the hearing, Bhajji had denied the charge, Tendulkar had said he heard nothing, and Benson and Bucknor had said the same. Both Channel 9 and ESPN said they had no audio-video evidence.

The allegation, according to the Indians, was “absolute rubbish”. “It is one man’s word against the other,” said a player. “So why would they take an Australian’s word to be the correct version?”

Though the BCCI has said the tour is on, the players appeared in no mood to play. “It’s been a terrible day,” a senior player told HT. “We have been treated unfairly by the umpires, cheated of a favourable result in the match, are playing a team that cheats and lies quite blatantly, even while pretending to uphold the spirit of the game. The worst of it is, they get away with everything, every dirty tactic, every dubious call. On top of it, there’s this (the Harbhajan controversy). How are we supposed to feel, and in what mode does anyone expect us to play?” He said the team was “thoroughly demoralised” and “traumatised”, and completely shaken.