The use of foul language is commonplace as far as sporting activities go. It rarely comes out in print or gets splashed across TV channels, forget two major cricket nations getting ready to tear each other apart on the basis of what one of their players told another from the other side.
But in the days of expletives, lies and videotapes, everything is fair, even acceptable. Docking 50 per cent of a player’s match fee is par for the course for using a phrase that is unparliamentarily by moderate standards.
Justice John Hansen ruled that Harbhajan Singh said ‘teri maa ki’, to Andrew Symonds in Sydney and not ‘monkey’.
The ICC Appeals Commissioner also stated that because the Indian was speaking in his ‘native tongue’ there was a possibility that what he said was ‘misinterpreted’.
In the 18-page explanation of his decision, the judge of the New Zealand High Court concluded, “If I am left with an honest and reasonable uncertainty, then I must make a finding favouring Mr Singh.” The spinner was fined 50 per cent of his match fee because he had admitted to using ‘some’ bad words in retaliation to ‘some’ provocation from Symonds.
Hansen revealed that Harbhajan could have faced harsher punishment had he been fully aware of the previous occasions when the Indian was found treading the wrong side of the law.
Recalling incidents when he was booked in 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2005 for various reasons, Hansen said he had not been informed of these cases save the one in 2003.
“...Mr Singh can feel fortunate that he has reaped the benefit of database and human errors. But judicial experience shows that these are problems that arise from time to time,” Hansen said after clarifying that Harbhajan’s previous cases of misconduct were not made available to him.
Dig at Symonds
Surprisingly, Hansen found Symonds’s behaviour unacceptable. The ‘monkey business’ had started after Harbhajan had patted Brett Lee on the back and the exchange of words took place when Symonds walked up and said he had no business doing that.
"Anyone observing this incident would take it to be a clear acknowledgement of well-bowled,” Hansen noted in his statement referring to Harbhajan’s pat.
"Mr Symonds appears to be saying he finds it unacceptable that an opponent makes a gesture that recognises the skill of one of his teammates…. If that is his view, I hope it is not shared by all cricketers. It would be a sad day for cricket if it is."
Hansen confirmed that video evidence and audio recordings made available to him from the stump camera were not conclusive. “They don’t take the matter much further. They don’t assist in any way in determining what Mr Singh himself said. Accordingly, I am not satisfied that it has been established to the requisite very high standard that the words were said, and on that basis a charge under 3.3 is not made out."