Ricky Ponting was pronounced a villain in India and by some in Australia when he, on behalf of Andrew Symonds, lodged an official complaint against Harbhajan Singh for an alleged racist jibe during the infamous Sydney Test in 2007-08. The batting great has revealed in his new autobiography ‘At the Close of Play’ that the Australians had warned Harbhajan after the spinner allegedly called Symonds “monkey” during an ODI at the Wankhede Stadium a few months before the Sydney Test.
“Most noticeably during these latter three matches (the last three ODIs of that series at Vadodara, Nagpur and Mumbai), small sections of the crowd took to making monkey noises whenever Symmo walked in their direction… after the final game, Symmo, who is of part Afro-Caribbean descent, informed us that while we were fielding, though I didn’t hear it myself, Harbhajan had called him a ‘monkey’,” Ponting writes in his new book.
“We knew that if any of us had chipped one of the Indians about their race they would have been filing a complaint pronto and that would be the right thing to do. The papers would have been onto the story immediately and we’d have been the bad guys ... again,” writes Ponting. “However, our first reaction, in contrast, was to do what we’d always done. Just let it go,” he adds, revealing that the Australians decided to let off Harbhajan with a warning.
“Before the dressing-room debate could go too far, Symmo stood up and said, ‘I’ll fix it’. He strode over to the Indian team’s room, knocked on their door, and asked for Harbhajan. In his book ‘Roy on the Rise: A Year of Living Dangerously’, published the following year, he recounts this moment, though Harbhajan denied this conversation took place.
Don’t push your luck!
“'Look,' Symmo recalls having said to Harbhajan, ‘the name-calling is fine with me; it doesn’t particularly worry me what you call me, but you know what is going to happen. One thing will lead to another and you blokes will end up going to an umpire and it will get out of hand’.
Symmo also said he told Harbhajan that the word used was ‘offensive and hurtful’. He said Harbhajan then apologised and said it wouldn’t happen again, that they then shook hands, and Symmo said: ‘That’s the end of it.’ We figured, naively as it turned out, that it would indeed be the end of it,” writes Ponting. Asked about the controversy, Anil Kumble, who was skipper on that tour Down Under, said a few days ago: “If you really want to know what happened, you have to wait for my book.”
Ricky Ponting’s autobiography ‘At the Close of Play’, published by HarperCollins Australia, was released in Australia on Monday.