So Harbhajan Singh doesn’t have to be deported to Guantanamo Bay after all. Charged with racially abusing Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds during the second Test in Sydney, Singh was facing a three-match ban, not to mention the ignominious tag of a ‘racist’. While accusing an Indian of racism sounded ludicrous to an overwhelming number of Indians, we didn’t find the possibility illogical at all, considering that racism, despite the historical protection of victimhood offered to Indians, is not the monopoly of the White world. But with much talk in the media about whether the word hurled at Symonds was really “monkey” or not, that particular issue was hijacked to be replaced by rather inane matters like ‘national pride’. Defenders either had an unquestioned innate faith in Singh’s inability skills in racial amity, or considered a terrible misunderstanding where a non-racist abuse became a racial one.
Thus, the original sentence of a three-Test ban for racial abuse was turned into a fine of half his match fee for 'offensive behaviour’. The appeal hearing was conducted by New Zealand High Court judge and ICC code of conduct commissioner John Hansen, so one can expect an amicable end to the whole matter. But dare we suggest that the dice looked a bit loaded even before Singh’s charge was cleared? BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi had stated that “if a clean chit is not given to Harbhajan, the Indian board’s decision is to call the team home” before the sentence. With 90,000 tickets already picked up for the India-Australia Twenty20 match in Melbourne on Friday and the triangular series with Australia, Sri Lanka and India starting on Sunday, Mr Modi’s statement could have been construed as a ‘financial threat’ to ICC.
But then, Singh is free to play and has been found to have been a badly behaved boy, no racist twit, says the verdict. Why should we, cheerleaders of Singh and the Indian team, question that? Only one bit of advice for the BCCI: do consider the remote possibility of racist comments from Indian players in the future and taking subsequent action. It would be unfortunate if we are perceived to be playing post-colonial games on the field other than cricket.