Sachin Tendulkar was not within earshot when Andrew Symonds was allegedly called a "monkey" by Harbhajan Singh, reveals a leaked document from Harbhajan's disciplinary hearing.
Match referee Mike Procter, who suspended the Indian spinner for racism and handed him a three-match ban Jan 6, said in his written statement that Tendulkar could not have known what was said in the controversial exchange, Australian media reports said.
"I note that Sachin Tendulkar only became involved when he realised that something was happening and was gestured over. He tried to calm things down because something had happened that he did not hear," he said.
Procter also rebuffed the Indian claim of the absence of any visual and audio proof that could validate the Australian claim.
"It was submitted to me by Chetan Chauhan (Indian team manager and former member of parliament) that there was doubt because the umpires and other players did not hear the words but, in my judgement, they would not have been in a position to hear them," Procter wrote in a statement after the hearing.
"The first issue for me is did Harbhajan Singh say the word 'monkey' or 'big monkey'?" he wrote. "I have heard evidence from Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden that he did say these words. Harbhajan Singh denies saying these words.
"Both umpires did not hear nor did Ricky Ponting or Sachin Tendulkar. I am satisfied and sure beyond reasonable doubt that Harbhajan Singh did say these words," he was quoted as saying by The Australian.
Another thing that was on Procter's agenda during the hearing was to see whether the words used by Harbhajan Singh was to offend or humiliate Symonds.
"The second thing I now have to consider is were the words uttered by Harbhajan Singh so as to offend, insult, humiliate etc Andrew Symonds on the basis of his race, colour, descent or ethnic origin (as per the Level 3.3 offence)?
"I am sure beyond reasonable doubt that the use of the word 'monkey' or 'big monkey' was said to insult or offend Andrew Symonds on the basis of his race, colour or ethnic origin," he said.
Procter also made note of the Symonds-Harbhajan confrontation during a match in Mumbai last year, acknowledging "there is a history between these two players". He however ruled out that their prior row had anything to do with the incidents of the Sydney Test.
"Nevertheless, there was trouble in Mumbai when members of the crowd were arrested for using the word 'monkey' and gesturing towards Andrew Symonds. This caused both Indian and Australian boards to issue a joint statement. To this extent Mumbai is relevant to this hearing," he wrote.
Procter's ruling had led to widespread protests from India and other Asian cricket-playing nations with the former threatening to pull out of the series.
The hearing after India's appeal will now be conducted by New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen on Jan 29 and 30.