May 03, 2008 at 07:31pm IST

Tape rules umpire out on Bhajji-Sree slapgate

New Delhi: The Indian Premier League (IPL) is making news for all the wrong reasons. The Harbhajan Singh-S Sreesanth slapgate, controversy over cheerleaders and Sourav Ganguly-Shane Warne spat have made sure that cricket has been pushed into the background in the Twenty20 tournament.

Now the issue of Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth has once again came back to haunt the IPL.

Following the slapping of Sreesanth by the Mumbai Indians stand-in skipper, one of the umpires in the match, Amish Saheba, was quoted by a Mumbai newspaper as saying that Bhajji was indeed provoked by the Kerala pacer into slapping him.

Saheba later denied having spoken to any reporter on the controversy in his reply to the show cause notice issued to him by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) even as the cricket board suspended him for two matches.

The BCCI also agreed with Saheba's reply that he had not given any interview on the Harbhajan-Sreesanth spat.

But CNN-IBN has an audio tape of Saheba's conversation with Tapan Joshi of the Mumbai Mirror and Dhvanit of Radio Mirchi exposing his denial. Not just that, thousands heard that interview since it was broadcast live on the radio channel.

The transcript of the audio tape:

Amish Saheba: I was umpire in that match. Now, in that match Sreesanth once or twice said something while bowling. We even warned Sreesanth in this match. 'You improve your behaviour' and yet in the last over when Bombay's (Mumbai Indians) batsman got out, even at that time he said something. At that time immediately I an Aleem Dar, who was my partner, told Yuvraj that you tell Sreesanth that match is about to get over and he is trying to get himself into trouble. Than that got over and match was itself finished and as usual players congratulated each other and were saying bad luck to losers. It's then I feel Sreesanth said something adverse to Bhajji and Bhajii got angry and did some violent act on Sreesanth.

Reporter: Did you give this report to the match referee?

Amish Saheba: We can't submit a report because this happened after the match got over so we don't come into picture.

Reporter: Amishbhai is it true that Sreesanth is disliked in the team?

Amish Saheba: Yes percentage wise, complete true.

Reporter: So what is the reason for this? First impression has come out wrong that's why?

Amish Saheba: No, it's like this. Inspite of repeatedly being warned about that now you are representing the county at the highest level you should look after your language, behavious, everything. But in him even now that schoolboy image of five years ago is there and that's the reaction right now. That's why he is not liked by the players in the dressing room.

The umpire though has said that a reporter of Ahmedabad Mirror came to take his photograph on his residence on April 28 just one day before his 'comments' appeared in the newspaper and its Mumbai edition.

"I was not given to understand that he wants my photograph for any of the report, which ultimately came to be published in Ahmedabad Mirror as well as Mumbai Mirror. I never knew that for this purpose he is taking the photographs. There was no such type of conversation or communication," Saheba was earlier quoted as saying by PTI.

Harbhajan had slapped Sreesanth after the match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab in Mohali on April 25 and the IPL banned the off-spinner for 11 matches. Match Referee and adjudicator Farokh Engineer handed down the punishment after a two-hour hearing on April 28 and Harbhajan also forfeited match fees from the third match onwards.

Sreesanth was warned against aggressive on-field behaviour and told that his conduct would be taken seriously.

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