The BCCI has been accused of using its economic clout to influence a decision in the Harbhajan Singh case. HT asked the Board some tough questions and interestingly, BCCI secretary, Niranjan Shah, answered them.
Excerpts from an interview:
There is a belief that the judgement was influenced by the BCCI flexing its economic muscle?
If you read the verdict completely, you will know the answer yourself. The BCCI has in no way tried to influence the procedure of either the appeal hearing or the verdict.
Given that there wasn’t sufficient evidence against Harbhajan, do you think the BCCI needed to take such a tough stance?
I don’t think we took too tough a stance. The earlier punishment imposed by the match referee was based only on one man's word against another. And we just could not accept it. I think it’s time the ICC took another look at their Code of Conduct, especially when it comes to such trivial incidents.
Why wasn’t there one voice in the BCCI? We had one vice-president saying there was no question of the tour being called off, while another said the team would return if Harbhajan was found guilty.
I can only say the Board always unanimously maintained it would not accept the charge of racial abuse. We decided to wait until the appeal hearing before discussing a future course of action.
Has the whole episode set a dangerous precedent in global cricket — you don’t try and take on the BCCI?
We followed defined procedures to earn justice. Nobody can accuse the BCCI of any wrongdoing. Whatever action we took was well within the prescribed framework. And the judgement has justified our stance.
I firmly believe that the incident happened on the field in the heat of the moment and should have never gotten out of it. Symonds started the whole thing. The judge also said such behaviour is not good for the spirit of the game. The match referee unfairly imposed the ban on Harbhajan.
Did the BCCI and CA strike a deal on this?
There was no deal. In fact, there was no need for one. We both followed defined procedures. Both Boards want a good, long term relationship and I am sure that will be the case.
Where does this episode go from here?
With the judge submitting his judgement on Thursday, I think it's time to put an end to the whole episode.
There are lessons to be learnt for everyone involved. But now, it's time to move on.