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Harbhajan Singh faces temporary suspension

An irate BCCI reacts swiftly and seriously to the issue, announcing IPL's decision to suspend him “with immediate effect”. Amol Karhadkar & Subhash Rajta report.What exactly happened?

cricket Updated: Apr 28, 2008 12:16 IST

An embarrassed and irate Indian cricket establishment reacted swiftly and seriously to the Harbhajan Singh-S. Sreesanth slapping controversy, announcing late on Friday evening that the Indian Premier League (IPL) had suspended Singh “with immediate effect”.

The suspension is temporary (pending an inquiry in New Delhi on Monday) and, according to an IPL release, was based on “prima facie video evidence as seen and reviewed by the match adjudicator and referee Farokh Engineer from the tapes provided by Sony & TWI.”

But even while condemning Singh’s role in an incident that lost him the mandate of a nation and the board that backed him through some ugly times in Australia, the Board of Controlf for Cricket in India (BCCI) was also swift to condemn Sreesanth’s conduct.

While the Mohali team maintained that the attack on Sreesanth was “unprovoked”, it is clear that in BCCI circles, no one quite believes that Sreesanth’s perennial theatrics have helped his cause.

BCCI Chief Administrative Officer Prof Ratnakar Shetty said as much to Hindustan Times. “Sreesanth will also be questioned. I don’t understand what this ‘big brother’, ‘small brother’ talk means (the reference was to TV channels showing Harbhajan saying Sreesanth was like a “younger brother” and Sreesanth calling him “elder brother”). If the players are taking this tournament lightly, it’s time they realised it is serious cricket… when the board stands behind its players, it doesn’t mean it will tolerate any nonsense.”

A very upset Shetty added that the Board had “had enough” of the way both players had behaved and had seen enough, as it was all on television. “I feel let down. This type of behaviour is unheard of, shameful. We condemn it.”

He added: “When we wrote to Sreesanth before he went to Australia, we asked him to look at players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble who have never been involved in any on-field behaviour problems. And nobody needs to talk about their achievements.”

On Monday, Engineer will call on both parties to present their cases. On Monday, Engineer will be calling on both parties to present their cases. Even though Sreesanth said separately and several times that it was over, there were several conflicting statements coming out of the camps. He finally told HT, “See, I left the entire thing on the field itself and was out of it (the emotional angst) in just an hour. It’s now up to the BCCI and the ICC to deal with the issue.”

The Mohali team, which debated making a formal complaint long into the night before deciding to act, decided to go the whole hog. They unequivocally stated that Singh made an “unprovoked attack against Sreesanth” and said the “team and management consider the behaviour unacceptable and against the spirit of the game”. It is ironic that most of the Mohali team is made up of Singh’s Punjab statemates, many of them close friends of his.

“We are disappointed; it’s a regretful situation,” said Mohali CEO Neil Maxwell. “We didn’t want to take action against any player and it’s not a decision we are proud of, but it’s a decision taken after long consideration.”

Whatever happens, if punishment is meted out to Singh, it is likely to lead to severe cracks and perhaps changes in already strained inter-personal relationships within the Indian team.

Singh is part of a close-knit group that includes Tendulkar, his long-time buddy, mentor, even saviour on occasions, most notably in Australia when Andrew Symonds accused Singh of passing racist remarks. Sreesanth, on the other hand, is somewhat of a rebel even within the India camp and is only barely tolerated by many teammates.