New Delhi: The last time bowler Harbhajan Singh was caught in a battle with a fellow player, he had the whole-hearted backing of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
But now the tables have turned and after the latest slapping row with S Sreesanth during an Indian Premier League (IPL) match, the BCCI is keen on setting the record straight that such “misbehavior on field will not be tolerated.”
In an 11-year career, Harbhajan and controversy have been constant bedfellows and it seems the BCCI has finally had enough.
“Players have let down the Board with such behaviour. The tape clearly shows Bhajji hitting Sreesanth on the face. We have had enough of all this,” BCCI's Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty told CNN-IBN.
If the rulebook is thrown at Harbhajan then this could be a big blow to his career. On the evidence made available by TV footage and pictures, there seems to be enough damning evidence against Harbhajan.
If found guilty the spinner could land up with a minimum 10-match ban, ending his IPL campaign. But that is not all, if the Board gets too tough then Harbhajan could also end up with a life ban.
“Ultimately, the matter will come to the Board and it has to take a decision according to the evidence. I don’t think it would be justified if I give judgment without hearing the details. If anybody, Harbhajan or whomsoever, has misbehaved and if it’s true then he has to face the music,” BCCI chief Sharad Pawar said.
And for the man who conceived and executed the idea of the IPL, retaining the sanctity of the tournament is paramount.
“We have zero-tolerance for this sort of behaviour on field. We need to set the right example and so appropriate action will be taken soon,” IPL Chairman Lalit Modi said.
Now the BCCI may want to take stringent action against Harbajan, but Sreesanth said that the entire episode should be forgotten.
Sreesanth told Malayalam channel Asianet News, “I went to shake Bhajji's hand after the game. It is unbelievable that he reacted the way he did. It wasn't like he actually beat me up. But it was more than a friendly pat. Perhaps, he was upset over losing the match. But I've already forgiven him. I have a long way to go in cricket, and I'd better put all this behind me.”
Meanwhile, Harbhajan Singh's mother Avtaar Kaur said that she was not aware of her son slapping Sreesanth, but hoped they resolve the matter soon.
“I don’t know about any slapping incident. They should talk to each other and resolve the matter,” she said.
For the Mumbai Indians who are already reeling after three consecutive defeats and the injury to their Captain Sachin Tendulkar, this is a tricky situation. Supporting Harbhajan could pitch them against the BCCI and discarding him won't go down well in the team.
BHAJJI ON THE BACKFOOT
In 1997-98 Harbhajan was fined 50 per cent of match fee and given a one-match suspension for abusing Ricky Pointing.
|In 2001-02 he was fined 75 per cent of match fee and again one-match suspension for showing dissent at umpire's decision and attempting to intimidate him.|
|In 2002-03 he was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for using abusive and foul language against the umpire.|
|Earlier this year he was fined 50 per cent of match fees for using obscene language against Andrew Symonds. However, he was cleared off charges of racially abusing him.|
(With bureau inputs)