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Inside the Bhajji-Sree row

An edgy Harbhajan had warned Sreesanth not to abuse him or anyone else in the team, on the morning of the match. Amol Karhadkar reports.

cricket Updated: Apr 27, 2008 00:19 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Everyone who saw Sreesanth in tears on television after his team, Mohali, won the game against the Harbhajan Singh-led Mumbai team, probably wondered what was going on.

And as the news filtered out, through TV channels, phone calls and smses late into the night, that Harbhajan had allegedly slapped Sreesanth, there was a sense of disbelief --- what was Bhajji thinking? But given the volatile nature of the protagonists, few doubted that something had happened.

There is no doubting that Harbhajan might well have been portrayed as the villain of the piece by everyone, given his recent runs-in with the authorities, but in this case, there is a history to what eventually ended in Harbhajan losing his patience.

It has been learnt that ahead of this game that both teams (without a win till this one) desperately wanted to win an edgy Harbhajan had warned Sreesanth not to abuse him or anyone else in the team, on the morning of the match. He apparently even told him that if he did, he would hit him.

According to sources in the Mumbai camp, even the Mumbai youngsters, many on the big stage for the first time, were told to try and ignore Sreesanth's tantrums as far as they could. They were also told that if they thought that the fast bowler had become uncontrollable, they should tell him (Sreesanth) that they would complain about him to Sachin Tendulkar or Harbhajan.

While it was not clear what exactly Sreesanth said to Harbhajan at the end of the game (though some say he crossed a line), it was reliably learnt that Harbhajan was terribly upset by Sreesanth's incessant and impolite chit-chat throughout the match.

One such glaring instance was Sreesanth's exchange of words with Musavir Khote after the young Mumbai all-rounder was dismissed.

But despite talk of an apology after the game and a conversation between Harbhajan and Sreesanth, the Kerala paceman's team has decided to lodge an official complaint with the IPL governing council on Saturday morning.

"We have decided to lodge an official complaint against Harbhajan," an official spokesperson of the Mohali team said on condition of anonymity.

The Hindustan Times has also learnt that the complaint, the final draft of which was being finalised as this report is being written, has alleged that Harbhajan slapped and used the "F-word" against Sreesanth.

As the sun rises, the ball will be in the IPL governing council's court. Though chairman Lalit Modi was quoted by some news channels as saying they will "probe the matter", it remains to be seen what course of action the IPL decides to take.

Given Harbhajan's history though, and the fact that the captains pledged that their teams would play the game not just by the laws of the game but by its spirit, in a very public declaration during the opening ceremony in Bangalore on the 17th, it will be difficult to find extenuating circumstances to let him off this one. And depending on what Sreesanth has said or done, they would logically be looking to do something on that count too. If they don't on both counts, it would be viewed as a travesty of justice. This incident was far too public. Watch this space.