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Race slur off Bhajji after backroom pact

Justice John Hansen had been told that Harbhajan and Symonds had resolved the issue amicably, report HT correspondents.

cricket Updated: Jan 30, 2008 02:01 IST

By early Tuesday, as soon as it was learnt that the Indian and Australian players had submitted a joint letter to the appeals commissioner looking into Harbhajan Singh’s appeal against his three-match ban on charges of racism, it was evident that a truce was on the cards.

Justice John Hansen was later told that Harbhajan and Symonds had resolved the issue amicably between themselves and that Australia were no longer bringing charges of “racial abuse” against the Indian. “The moment the Australians agreed to write a joint letter, the matter had almost been sorted out even before the hearing started,” a senior BCCI official told HT.

Interestingly, sources said there was a major reason behind why the Aussies gave in so late in the day, one that had nothing to do with either being gracious in the aftermath of India withdrawing the charges against Brad Hogg, nor with the BCCI’s financial clout.

Apparently, the Australian players had sought detailed legal advice on their position during the Adelaide Test. The lawyer met with the players collectively and told them something the BCCI had been maintaining throughout — in a fair appeals process, conducted by a judge, the racism charge would just not stand. There was just not enough evidence.

So the Australian team management — which had also reportedly offered a couple of days ago to reduce the racism charge to one of abuse if Harbhajan made a public apology, rejected by the Indians — decided it would be best to take the legal advice in good spirit and put an end to what was a messy, potentially explosive situation.

"What followed thereafter in the courtroom was just routine proceedings. The atmosphere was quite relaxed,” a BCCI source said. It is learnt that during the “routine proceedings”, Harbhajan was asked what exactly he said to Andrew Symonds on day three of the Sydney Test.

Pat came the reply from the off-spinner: “Teri maa ki”. Sachin Tendulkar, batting at the other end when the verbal exchange happened, was then asked: “What did you hear?” Tendulkar reportedly said: "I heard him saying teri maa ki.”

And then, said sources, was the really funny part. Harbhajan was asked to explain the meaning of the phrase in English. And when he somehow managed to translate it, everyone present "had a laugh".

Advocate VR Manohar, who represented Harbhajan through video conference from Mumbai, said that once Harbhajan admitted “to have hurled (non-racial) abuses at Symonds, the level of the Code of Conduct charges was reduced and it was left to Justice Hansen to hand out appropriate punishment for the offence under which he now stood charged”.

Indians don’t often cross the ICC’s path

Harbhajan Singh became the first Indian cricketer this year to cop a punishment for the offence. S Sreesanth was the lone Indian guilty of breaching the CoC in the last two years.

Sreesanth was found guilty of Level 1 breach of Code 1.1 (logo policy) and Level 1 breach of Code C 1 (conduct contrary to the spirit of the game) during the first Test between India and South Africa at Johannesburg in December 2006.