Gavaskar slams Harbhajan ban
Gavaskar said the charge against Harbhajan should be dropped immediately for lack of evidence.Updated: Jan 13, 2008 15:35 IST
Legendary former India captain Sunil Gavaskar on Sunday called for revoking the ban on Harbhajan Singh, saying the match-referee's decision was based not on facts, but emotion.
Indian off-spinner Harbhajan was suspended by South African match-referee Mike Procter for three Tests after being found guilty of racially abusing Australian Andrew Symonds during the second Test in Sydney last week.
The tour was in jeopardy following racism and umpiring rows, but Indian officials later confirmed it would go ahead after their demand for removing an umpire was accepted by the sport's world governing body.
Harbhajan will be allowed to play the final two Tests in Perth and Adelaide till the International Cricket Council Code of Conduct commissioner, appointed to adjudicate on India's appeal against Procter's decision, completes his inquiry.
Gavaskar said the charge against Harbhajan should be dropped immediately for lack of evidence.
"The off-spinner has denied having used the word which has caused offence and in the absence of any audio recording and most crucially with both umpires not having heard it, the charge should have been dropped straight away for lack of corroborating evidence," Gavaskar wrote in his Hindustan Times column.
"By accepting the word of the Australian players and not the Indian players, the match-referee has exposed himself to the charge of taking a decision based not on facts, but on emotion."
The 58-year-old Gavaskar, who is also the head of the ICC's rule-making committee, said it had incensed millions of Indians who had been asking why his decision should not be considered a racist one.
"Millions of Indians want to know if was a 'white man' taking the 'white man's' word against that of the 'brown man'. Quite simply if there was no audio evidence nor did the officials hear anything then the charge did not stand," he wrote.
"This is what has incensed the millions of Indians who are flabbergasted that the word of one of the greatest players in the history of the game, Sachin Tendulkar, was not accepted. In effect, Tendulkar has been branded a liar by the match-referee."
Tendulkar was one of the five Indians present at the racism charge hearing, others being skipper Anil Kumble, Harbhajan, manager Chetan Chauhan and media manager M. V. Sridhar.
Former opener Gavaskar said the moment a charge was upheld without any "tangible proof" it left the door open for similar charges to be made.
"Just suppose a team wants to get rid of a player who is a threat to them. The simplest thing to do is to have some players to say that there was a racist taunt directed at them," he wrote.
"Then it's their word against the player who is accused, if one goes by the recent verdict. That's the danger in this verdict and that's why the Indian cricket board is absolutely right in backing its man."
Gavaskar also lauded the Indian board for demanding the removal of West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor as the team had lost faith in the official.
"Here the ICC too deserves praise for the swiftness with which it tried to defuse the tension by removing Bucknor from the duties of umpiring at Perth (venue for the third Test)," he wrote.
"But the ICC will do well to keep in mind that there were two umpires out there who had a bad game and not penalise only one or it could be up against a racist charge too.
"Throughout, as the controversy unfolded, it was only Bucknor that the Aussie media was pillorying and not (Mark) Benson. You form your opinion whether it was racist or not."