Harbhajan Singh and S Sreesanth are Indian cricket team's new face of aggression. The duo has been bailed out many times by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It was the BCCI which came to Bhajji's rescue after his showdown with Andrew Symonds during India's tour Down Under.
However, this time, the Turbanator seems to have crossed the Line of Control when he slapped Sreesanth after losing to the Kings XI Punjab during the IPL match on Friday.
CNN-IBN Sports Editor Gaurav Kalra joined IBNLive.com readers to discuss the issue.
Reproduced below is the full text of the chat.
Hari Krishnanv: Sreesanth is a very smart guy or has been advised by someone who knows how the system works. After the SA series in SA he has hardly done anything of note both in tests and ODI's. But he has somehow positioned himself as the "new aggressive" face of Indian cricket and that I feel is keeping him in and around the team. Isn’t it time he is exposed?
Gaurav Kalra: There is some truth to this I would think...his advisors do need to be in his ear and ask him to temper this...because the fact of the matter is that he still doesn't have a track record he can be proud of...so yes, maybe there is an element of "tamasha" every time he plays the game and he needs to watch out...because people see through it beyond a point...
Yogesh: Dear Gaurav, Cricket & the Movies bind India which is a very diverse country with so many languages etc. Do you think the IPL is creating a wedge in the country? I know we have had the Ranji trophy and other domestic tournaments since a long time, but none of these have received the kind of hype the IPL has.
Gaurav Kalra: Sporting competition doesn’t create wedges. It isn’t like Manchester united football fans react violently every time they see a Chelsea fan or the New York Knicks feel like hitting a La Lakers fan sporting contests are just that play hard on the field of play. Try really hard to win and at the end of it all; shake hands and walk off I don’t think the IPL can be blamed for creating a wedge.
Varadharajan: Is it a stunt to promote IPL as they have seen failure of ICL to pull crowds to ground
Gaurav Kalra: That’s too sinister a theory. I don’t think anyone can come up with a complicated plan of that kind that sounds too Bizzare to me!
Shamrez: Dear Gaurav, I am ardent fan of IBN Sports desk, first of all let me wish you keep up the good work.. How do you think this incident is going to affect both their career? Will it as difficult for Harbhajan as it was for Shoaib and will Sreesanth have to bear Kambli's fate for not controlling emotions on the ground?
Gaurav Kalra: We appreciate the kind words...sometimes a crisis is an opportunity...this will give Harbhajan the chance to reflect and introspect...be around people who love him unconditionally like his mother and his sisters...and perhaps emerge from this with the quiet determination to let his cricket make the headlines...we can only hope so because he has a rare gift....anybody who can spin the ball like he can is worth his weight in gold.
Sid: Do you think that in future it will be difficult for Harbhajan to defend himself if involved with such incidents in international matches?
Gaurav Kalra: If Harbhajan ever again crosses the line in the way he has this time I have a feeling it will be the final straw... He will become India's Shoaib unfortunately; not wanted by his own board and rejected by his team-mates...he is walking a thin line...
Srivatsa: Mr Gaurav, since cricket has evolved with the generation, don't you think, the bringing up the new players is the responsibility of 'fathers' of cricket? We had GR Vishwanath, Prasanna, Vengsarkar etc - who used to display utmost dignity, behaviour, gamesmanship -on field & off field and the these 'leagues' should hire them to firstly teach the 'basics' of human-behaviour to the next generation players. Would you suggest means to do this?
Gaurav Kalra: I wish that could happen...the grace that these gentlemen brought to the game is a great value i remember meeting Mr Viswanath once and was floored by his humility and warmth....maybe cricket has changed forever, but there is still no harm in being decent...have a look at Kumble or Dravid or for that matter Federer or Tiger Woods...what is common to them? Great sportsmen and inherently decent people
Dr Abhay Matkar: Dear Gaurav, This is no aggression. This is just personal inadequacy, which is coming out. If they focus on the game it would keep their head on their shoulders. They need professional help to address this issue. Don’t you think so?
Gaurav Kalra: As a doctor I think you may be in a better position to judge that!
Srinivas: Will the video evidence would be shown to the public as well?
Gaurav Kalra: Wait for it to leak!!
Sachin: Why our players fight within themselves??? Or is IPL creating grudges among team India players?
Gaurav Kalra: I doubt that will happen. I think sportsmen play on instinct to large extent they are conditioned to find ways to win and work together in whichever team they are to try and win just see how well Hayden and Hussey have fit into a team that is led by Dhoni. They were on opposite ends of the spectrum in Australia but once they got together in a team; the performances have come
Navin: If there is a grading system in IPL for players, will now the grade for Bhajji be lowered so that in his next year's Mumbai will have to chunk out lesser money? I think this is all about money. So if you punish them financially, it'll hurt at the right area in players' brain along with the justifiable ban of course.
Gaurav Kalra:I don’t think so...he has been purchased for a certain fee and next year he will be taking the same amount home...unless there is a clause in the contract that says he can be docked sums...
Jhandubaam: On the broader perspective, do you see it as a symptom of a debauched system? Players becoming celebrities and they get an informal feedback (by no actions towards their pathetic behavior or performance) that they are immortal. Once they have proved them to be considered in the squad their position is fixed? Is it this kind of arrogance that leads them to such rash behaviour?
Gaurav Kalra: There is a level of arrogance...but surprisingly the greater the player; the less the arrogance... I have never in all my time covering cricket ever seen a hint of arrogance in Kumble or Dravid or Ganguly or Tendulkar confidence yes, arrogance no so there's a lesson there itself...
Nishant: Hi Gaurav, The punishment meted out to Bhajji in so far as IPL goes is a fair call but should the BCCI also independently take an action and punish him further affecting his international career? One must consider the fact that we in India are seriously suffering a drought of quality spinners, will it be a good idea to, lets say, give him a life ban or even a ban of a few test matches, when we don’t have anyone to really replace him. As it is Kumble is ageing, Pyusish Chavla we all saw in the recent South Africa series is not yet up to the mark and hence that leaves us with no one with experience and ability.
Gaurav Kalra: I think that the game goes on if the BCCI does indeed punish Harbhajan more. It may not be such a bad move after all; missing the chance to play for India is a different feeling I am sure to missing the chance to play for Mumbai Indians. I have a feeling that if anything it will drive the message home even more strongly but then I am not judging these things so my view shouldn't really matter!!
Indiancricket: On Bijulal's ques and your response, can we also not say "I told you so" about Symonds the way he went about picking on Harbhajan and then felling a streaker; two unrelated events but proving that Symonds was itching for a fight. So, I am not of the belief that we should bring the Aussie "monkeygate" episode into this and the Indian media needs to set the example here by standing up for the Indian players
Gaurav Kalra: The media's job is report the facts as they see them and not stand up for players come what may...We are journalists, not cheer leaders...There is no doubt that Harbhajan's history of code of conduct violations has hurt him in this case too...and please remember what Justice Hansen said while judging his appeal...he said that Harbhajan would have faced a much stronger punishment had he known of his earlier code of conduct violations so he escaped with a 50 per cent ban only on a technicality.
Mukesh Kumar: There have been reports that Sreesanth had been warned several times during the course of the match and even prior to the match. Bhajji asked him not to abuse him and Sree did it again with Robin while he was batting and with Khote. The chap is taking things granted and I believe that aggression is important but you need to match it with performance as well. I heard Sree saying to a South Indian channel that the incident took place because he is lone member from Kerala and the slap was beyond what was being said about. While he went on to say to the Hindi news channel that it was all over and Bhajji was like his brother. What the hell is going on? BCCI ears have gone deaf .Why you people are reluctant to portray this double side of Sreesanth.
Gaurav Kalra: Hi Mukesh. I think Sreesanth has got the message this time around...he has crossed the line more than once and while it was endearing to start with; it has started to irritate people now BCCI bosses too have made it pretty clear that he is walking a thin line maybe this was the last straw and he will be able to mend his ways before some kind of serious incident occurs.
Joe: With reports coming in the Bhajji was throw out of the NCA because of indiscipline when he was young and after 11 years he has still not improved. Every now and the then there is some controversy surrounding him. There is never smoke without fine. So from the time he started playing till now he is the same. Does this behaviour does not vindicate Hayden for his comments on Bhaji?
Gaurav Kalra: One of the fascinating things about Harbhajan is how he never seems to have made the transition from being "one of the boys" to a senior player he made his debut well before Sehwag and Dhoni and just a couple of years after Ganguly and Dravid yet he has always been regarded as someone who brings energy to the dressing room etc but not part of the think-tank a player with 11 years of experience should have graduated to greater things he hasn't and therein lies one of the dilemmas about Harbhajan Singh.
Krishna_rss: Do you have access to the videos of the whole scene? Without that how can we accept a ban on Bhajji of more than 10 matches?
Gaurav Kalra: No I haven't seen the video but Harbhajan himself accepts that he crossed the line so it pretty much settles the issue.
Hari: Do you think media is creating a hype around cricketers these days? In a way every broadcaster wants to have cricket headlines. Media is making cricketers pricey hence they show aloof attitude. Your thoughts?
Gaurav Kalra: Hari there is truth to what you say...there is an overkill of coverage and I accept that... Perhaps that has made cricketers figures of reverence and it can cause a level of arrogance...but in my interactions with the genuine greats; Kumble, Dravid, Ganguly etc I have observed that they have great poise and humility and they remain untouched by all this role models are around; we just have to look hard enough...
Bijulal D S: Hello Gaurav, don’t you think, Harbhajan having crossed the line now, people in Australia, especially Ponting and co will feel vindicated about their accusation.
Gaurav Kalra: Bijulal this is an important question... I covered the series in Australia and felt throughout that there was a strong belief in their system that Harbhajan had indeed crossed the line we don’t have any evidence to suggest he did use the word "monkey" but they do have a right to say "I told you so!"
Cricket: This issue has been blown out of proportion by the media like last time with Symonds in Australia. This game is played by men and when boys enter the fray it turns out they cry like kids or complain and make issues. Indian seniors like Dravid, Sachin and Ganguly were abused (on there face) by the Australian bowlers (just one of the incident we know) and did they react? Can words hurt? If yes did they reply with willow? Yes that’s the Man's way. Now take into account Symonds/Sreesanth, one was called monkey and other (well deserving) slapped and this immature minds don’t know how to react to attacks and one took out the way of complaining and the other cried (most female spectators were wooed by this) over it.
I am really surprised why no fine or match ban has been imposed on Sreesanth after his histrionics. If he says it was all fine and between brothers why did he take it out (crying) in the open? He betrayed his brother, teammate and mocked the men who have been playing this sport and settling the disputes with there willows or bowling inside the arena. I am surprised how Sreesanth is still playing? I was furious with his histrionics when he was bowling to Akmal (IPL league game shown all over the world) he should have been removed from the game that instant itself. Moral of the story - Men Play the sports, kids bring disrepute to the game. I don’t find fault with Harbhajan rather its the Sreesanth and Symonds who need to be shown the door, if you cant take it(aggression)....please don’t throw it at others.
Gaurav Kalra: I am a firm believer that aggression on a cricket field isn’t necessarily about making gestures or verbal abuse. Anil Kumble is among the most aggressive cricketers you will ever meet but have you ever heard of him being called by the match referee? If a guy can play for 20 years without being hauled up for abuse or anything of that kind then perhaps he is the model cricketer we are looking for; not the kind you seem to idolize.
Indiancricket: This has been a one sided judgement. Sreesanth was the backroom aggressor and he has been let off with only a warning. Is that fair?
Gaurav Kalra: Sreesanth is known for his antics yes but in this case the issue was about whether he provoked Harbhajan or not. The issue was Harbhajan crossing the line from verbal battles into physical assault once he did that there was no option left but for him to be punished my sense is that he understood the magnitude of his mistake too and this will hopefully make every cricketer, including Sreesanth think about the approach they bring to the game.
Rajashree: Don’t you think that Sreesanth should have been punished as well? Unless provoked no one would come out and hit anyone. I believe that Sreesanth would have said something to Bhajji taking into consideration his aggression, which in turn provoked Bhajji. Of course Bhajji being a senior player should have ignored it. I also feel that Sreesanth should not have made an issue of the whole thing knowing full well the repercussions. The whole drama could have been avoided.
Gaurav Kalra:One has to understand that while Sreesanth may have stepped out of line and constantly has in the past; Harbhajan broke a basic code of the game this is a non contact sport; the moment you cross that line you are asking for trouble Sreesanth will be dealt with but Harbhajan needed to be sent a strong message and through him the millions of kids who play cricket in India that attacking a fellow player goes against everything cricket stands for so yes while the drama could have and should have been avoided, Harbhajan got what he deserved.