Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh's racial abuse case appears to have taken a new twist with claims that Aussie all-rounder Andrew Symonds had possibly misinterpreted a derogatory Punjabi phrase, which sounded like "monkey".
The Indian team is now expected to argue at Singh's appeal hearing that he called Symonds a Maa Ki... in his native tongue, according to a report in "Daily Telegraph".
This defence may be enough to clear fiesty Singh of the more serious racial slur charge when his hearing before New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen is conducted even though he could face criticism for the general abuse. The date for the hearing after Singh was accused of telling Symonds " a monkey" is yet to be fixed.
Australian Brad Hogg will have his case for allegedly hurling an expletive at Indian captain Anil Kumble and his vice-captain M S Dhoni heard in Perth.
Australia is expected to argue that the alleged expletive does not insult a person's descent after Hogg, like Singh, was charged under section 3.3 of the ICC's code of conduct during the tainted Sydney Test, the report said.
While Hogg is expected to admit he used the expletive, Singh maintains he never said "monkey".
"He (Singh) didn't say that. He is not a racist, but maybe he said something else," the report quoted an identified Indian official as saying.
The report said it is not clear whether Singh used his Punjabi defence in his initial hearing on Monday, but Symonds and teammates Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke are adamant they heard the "monkey" gibe.
Australian players are also adamant Singh initially taunted the Queen slander with this slur during a one-day international in Mumbai in October.