Hours after a major Australian newspaper quoted Sharad Pawar as suggesting that the cricket tour could be off if the ban on Harbhajan Singh was not lifted, the BCCI chief said there was “no question of a pullout”.
Pawar’s reported statement, and its apparent denial, came after the Board voted to give him the power to personally decide on the fate of the series in Australia.
“Let’s just see what happens, but allegations of racism against a member of our cricket team is not acceptable… After the meeting, we then will take action,” the Herald Sun quoted him as saying.
The paper interpreted this as Pawar saying the threat of axing the tour was real if the ban remained.
But in Kolkata, Pawar told reporters: “There’s no question of a pullout. The series will not be affected. We are focussed on fighting Harbhajan’s case, but it all should be within the game.”
Pawar, however, stressed there had been no change in India’s basic position on the Harbhajan issue.
“We have decided to give full support to Harbhajan, and we will provide all the legal help to fight it out. If that means we have to seek legal assistance from abroad, we will do that,” he said.
Lawyers Arun Jaitley and N. Srinivasan, and president-elect Shashank Manohar will deal with the appeal from the BCCI side, he added. Pawar also said he had asked Sachin Tendulkar to tell him what exactly happened on the ground between Bhajji and Symonds.
“Sachin reported there was tension and provocation, but there was no question of racist comment,” Pawar said. “If Sachin or Sourav or Rahul or Anil say anything, I believe it 100 per cent and accept it.”
New Zealand judge John Hansen has been appointed the appeals commissioner for the hearing. There is, however no certainty how long the appeal might take. A Reuters report from Kolkata quoted Pawar as saying it was the BCCI’s “desire” that the hearing is got over with before the beginning of the One-Day triseries.