It started with the players exchanging unpleasant words on the field — Australians bringing to the attention of the match referee what might or might not have been told to them without being able to prove it — spilled beyond the confines of the ground to radio stations. Now, the fourth estate has joined the game.
Leading newspapers here were crying hoarse on Monday that Harbhajan Singh had made “monkey” gestures to the crowd during the first final in Sydney on Sunday and at least one of them even felt his actions might even amount to “making a racist gesture”. There were photographs as well, which were far from conclusive despite the lofty claims.
The Indian team chose to ignore it and Harbhajan reportedly said “he was tired of it all”. The matter obviously drew the attention of match referee Jeff Crowe, who after going through relevant procedures, concluded there was nothing in it to move any further.
“I have investigated the alleged incident with Cricket Australia’s ground security officials after reading newspaper reports and viewing related photographs that have been published. After reviewing all available information, I conclude that there is no need to take any action against Harbhajan Singh,” Crowe said in an official statement.
To be honest to the good intent shown by Crowe, who was probably most certainly trying to “investigate” whether Harbhajan’s gestures were loaded with racist taunts, there was little substantial in the way the dailies here tried to present their case.
The photograph claiming to be showing the player scratching his armpit could have been of any other cricketer flexing his limbs before or after an over. A cricketer and a bowler in particular can be caught in that frame several times in the course of a match, especially when it comes to his bowling arm.
Even in the days of media organisations out to outscore each other at every possible opportunity, it can be described as a weak attempt to convince readers that here was someone trying to incite the crowd by making a bad gesture. In fact, if one doesn’t read the captions, it’s difficult to make out what exactly the picture is trying to convey.
In its attempt to corroborate that Harbhajan indeed had something nasty in his mind, one of the dailies also wrote he was spitting at the crowd. Now, spitting is something most cricketers do on the field. There was no evidence that what Harbhajan did was aimed at the crowd.