It now transpires that Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh may have used a colloquial Punjabi curse that sounds suspiciously like "monkey" during his spat with Andrew Symonds, making the Australian cricketer misinterpret it as a racial abuse.
The tourists may argue at Harbhajan's appeal hearing that what he said cannot be termed a racial slur but was a commonly mouthed abuse, used more in reflex in Punjab and northern India. While this defence may land him in hot water for being abusive on the field, it may clear him of the more serious charge of racial villification.
A date for Harbhajan's appeal hearing before New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen is yet to be decided.
Australian Brad Hogg will have his case heard in Perth Monday for allegedly calling Indian captain Anil Kumble and vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni "bastards" during the second Test in Sydney.
Australia will argue the term "bastard" does not insult a person's descent after Hogg, like Harbhajan, was charged under section 3.3 of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) code of conduct during the drama-filled Sydney Test.
While Hogg is expected to admit he used the term "bastard", Harbhajan maintains he never said "monkey".
"He didn't say that. He is not a racist, but maybe he said something else," an Indian official admitted Friday.
It is unclear whether Harbhajan used his Punjabi defence in his initial hearing Monday, but Symonds and teammates Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke are adamant they heard the "monkey" gibe, reports Herald Sun.
Australian players are also adamant Harbhajan initially taunted the Queenslander with this slur during a one-day international in Mumbai in October. The tourists are bewildered that match referee Mike Procter believed evidence given by Hayden and Clarke but not that of Sachin Tendulkar, who refuted the claims.
Tendulkar was batting with Harbhajan when the incident happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). The tourists remain incensed that Harbhajan was banned for three Tests without any television footage or audio replay proving him guilty or confirmation from umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson - meaning match referee Mike Procter had to rely solely on the word of the Australian players.
An Indian team source was quoted in the media as saying that Procter strangely took private notes and did not record evidence. Harbhajan's main defence is that how could Procter come to a conclusion when there was no audio and video evidence and when even the umpires have not heard it.
As already reported, irate senior Indian players are pushing to boycott the triangular one-day series later this summer if Harbhajan's ban is not overturned.
The general belief in the Indian camp is that the Australians have worked to a plan, knowing fully well that Harbhajan would react if provoked. Otherwise, why should only Harbhajan and Symonds get involved in these incidents, asked an Indian player who also felt that they wanted distract Harbhajan's focus on the game.
Symonds sparked a furore when he questioned Harbhajan over why he had touched Brett Lee on the bottom during one of the fast bowler's overs.