The 'monkey' is off Harbhajan Singh’s back and with it, a lot more that was threatening to tear the cricketing world apart has been put to rest.
The spinner accused of racially taunting Australia’s Andrew Symonds in the second Test in Sydney earlier this month and handed a three-Test ban by match referee Mike Procter, was let off with a fine of 50 per cent of match fees following a hearing conducted by ICC appeals commissioner Justice John Hansen on Tuesday.
Call it an extension of India withdrawing the charges of abusing against Brad Hogg in the same Test or an effect of India’s supremacy in the economy of cricket, it is evident that truce was on the cards even before proceedings started.
The warring sides started the day by telling Hansen that Harbhajan and Symonds had resolved the issue amicably between themselves and that Australia were no longer bringing charges of ‘racial abuse’.
From a violation of clause 3.3 in the ICC Code of Conduct, it became a case of violating clause 2.8 (see box), which meant that even if Harbhajan was found guilty, it wouldn’t be for making racist remarks. It was then up to the BCCI lawyers sitting in Mumbai to ensure that Harbhajan got the minimum for committing that offence since there was no strong evidence.
The audio recording available from stump cameras was ‘undecipherable’ according to sources, and Hansen had no choice but to base his judgement on what the Australian players had to say. That was not ‘adequate’ to impose a harsher punishment on Harbhajan. The bowler pleaded guilty for being abusive but it couldn’t be established that he had called Symonds ‘big monkey’, as ruled by Procter.
That the charge of being racially abusive against the spinner might be withdrawn was reported by HT during a practice match in Canberra from January 10-12 and a senior member of the team management to have indicated that confirmed on Tuesday that the process had begun well before Hansen’s arrival.
“The Indian and Australian boards understood the gravity of the issue and the impact of calling the tour off could have on cricket. They were looking for a solution and withdrawing the charge against Hogg was the first step in that direction,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Chances of pulling out were not completely ruled out and that’s why the Indian players called for the ODIs joined the team here instead of in Melbourne. “That had to be done because till yesterday morning, we weren’t sure that Australia would agree to our proposal,” said a team member.
By Tuesday morning however, things were sorted out and before giving Hansen a chance to explore whether Harbhajan had actually called Symonds a monkey, the two boards made sure that the hatchets were buried.