Harbhajan Singh looks set for deep trouble. An insider who has seen the television footage of the Harbhajan-Sreesanth row told the Hindustan Times on Sunday, "The footage clearly shows Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth, and that too without any provocation."
He said, "It does not show Sreesanth saying anything" at that particular moment to Harbhajan, "contrary to reports", though whether he said anything before that clip or during the game is another story.
<b1>Meanwhile, even as the Mumbai team was involved in a grim battle for survival and heading for a fourth straight loss at the Dr DY Patil sports stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday, top officials of the team management and the franchisee, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), were reportedly focussed on something else.
According to sources, they had approached the IPL governing council asking for leniency for Harbhajan, who faces a disciplinary hearing for slapping Sreesanth after Mumbai lost to Mohali on Friday in Mohali.
Officially though, they just said they hoped the issue would be resolved amicably. While one spokesperson for the team told HT it was really a "personal matter between the players", a top team official said in a statement on Saturday night: "The incident… was most unfortunate. The Governing Council has set up an adjudication panel to inquire into it. The Mumbai Indians are confident that the decision taken by the panel will be in the best interests of cricket and the Indian Premier League."
It was learnt that top IPL officials, while maintaining that ICC Code of Conduct rules would be followed, were also in favour of Harbhajan being allowed some leeway. But the clear TV footage might not make any leniency possible.
At 1pm Monday in a New Delhi hotel, match adjudicator Farokh Engineer will begin hearing the case. Whatever he decides (and whenever), it will change many equations in Indian cricket.