Melbourne: Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh's racial abuse case appears to have taken a new twist with claims that Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds had possibly misinterpreted a derogatory Punjabi phrase which sounded like 'monkey'.
The Indian team is now expected to argue at Harbhajan's appeal hearing that he called Symonds a Maa Ki... (he abused Symonds' mother) in his native tongue, according to a report in Daily Telegraph.
This defence may be enough to clear feisty Harbhajan of the more serious racial slur charge when his hearing before New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen is conducted even though he could face criticism for the general abuse. The date for the hearing after Harbhajan was accused of calling Symonds a 'monkey' is yet to be fixed.
Australian Brad Hogg will have his case for allegedly hurling an expletive at Indian captain Anil Kumble and his vice-captain MS Dhoni heard in Perth.
Australia are expected to argue that the alleged expletive does not insult a person's descent after Hogg, like Harbhajan, was charged under section 3.3 of the ICC's code of conduct during the tainted Sydney Test, the report said.
While Hogg is expected to admit he used the expletive, Harbhajan maintains he never said 'monkey'.
"He (Harbhajan Singh) didn't say that. He is not a racist, but maybe he said something else," the report quoted an identified Indian official as saying.
The report said it is not clear whether Harbhajan used his Punjabi defence in his initial hearing on Monday, but Symonds and teammates Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke are adamant they heard the 'monkey' gibe.
Australian players are also adamant Harbhajan initially taunted the Queenslander with this slur during a One-Day International in Mumbai in October.