M A I N   N E W S

IPL slapstick
Harbhajan suspended
BCCI puts him on notice

Mumbai/Mohali, April 26
Temperamental off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was today suspended pending his explanation for slapping his Indian teammate S. Sreesanth at the end of an IPL match at Mohali last night and appears headed for a severe punishment, which can be a minimum of a ban for five Test matches or 10 one-day internationals.

Harbhajan was earlier slapped with a show-cause notice by the BCCI which gave him time till Monday to explain his conduct but bowing to media and public outrage, he was temporarily suspended till the disciplinary hearing before Farokh Engineer, who was the match referee in the tie between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians late last night. The suspension means Harbhajan Singh, who is the stand-in captain for the Mumbai Indians, will not be able to play for the team against Deccan Chargers tomorrow in Mumbai.

Announcing the suspension, IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi said that based on prima facie video evidence as seen and reviewed by the match adjudicator and referee Farokh Engineer from the tapes provided by Sony & TWI, a decision has been reached to suspend Harbhajan Singh of the Mumbai Indians with immediate effect pending the inquiry into the incident on Monday.

“The inquiry into the incident at Mohali in the game between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians will now take place at the Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi on April 28. A final verdict would be announced by Engineer post hearing at New Delhi,” he said in a statement.

As per the ICC code of conduct, slapping a fellow player constitutes a level 4 offence and could lead to a life ban or a minimum ban of five Tests to 10 ODIs.

BCCI president Sharad Pawar said he had told the IPL chairman if there was prima facie evidence of wrongdoing on the part of any player, the IPL should take immediate action against the player.

Simultaneously, he said, the IPL should give opportunity to both the players by hearing them and then take a final view. The IPL committee will take a separate decision on Monday, he added.

The immediate provocation for Harbhajan’s action last night appears to be Sreesanth saying “hard luck” to the off spinner who was in a bad mood following the Mumbai team’s third successive loss.

Though Harbhajan, who had only recently escaped unscathed from a searing racial abuse row with Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds, and his victim Sreesanth who cried bitterly on the field last night, tried to downplay the incident, the BCCI sought his explanation by Monday.

The IPL also asked the match referee and adjudicator Engineer to hold an inquiry in Delhi on Monday when Harbhajan would appear before him.

As the cricket world reacted with shock and condemned his behaviour, the Mumbai Indians brazenly announced late evening that Harbhajan would captain tomorrow’s match against Deccan Chargers in Mumbai in the absence of an unfit Sachin Tendulkar.

But shortly later, Modi’s announcement came as a setback to the team, which has already lost all three matches in the tournament so far.

“The complaint made by the management of the Punjab team has been to referred to me by Lalit Modi, chief commissioner of the IPL for immediate adjudication under the ICC code of conduct,” Engineer said. — PTI



The serial offender
Gopal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 26
Has Harbhajan Singh, the serial offender, bitten off more than he can chew by allegedly slapping S Sreesanth after the match between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians in Mohali yesterday?

The doughty Sardar is no stranger to controversy. He is talented. He is temperamental too. His ten years in international arena would hardly one feel proud of him.

In mid-2000, he was expelled from the National Cricket Academy by its director Hanumant Singh on account of indiscipline.

Soon after he began his international career, he found himself under a “chucking” cloud. He was “called” by the field umpires twice. He was, however, cleared by the ICC which stated that his bowling arm’s twist at the time of delivery was within the permissible limits.

In 2001, when he jolted unsuspecting Australians with a whopping 32 wickets in the three-Test series, Harbhajan turned an instant celebrity in the country, and it earned him the sobriquet of the “Turbanator” . His haul included a hat-trick in Kolkata Test, the first by an Indian.

Never the one to keep his emotions under check, an irresistible Harbhajan attracted unwarranted attention when in 2005 he accused Indian coach Greg Chappell of causing “fear and insecurity” among the players.

Things came to a head in the Sydney Test that India lost. Harbhajan Singh was handed a three-match ban by match referee Mike Procter for making racist comments against Andrew Symonds. Though Harbhajan was able to first get the racial slur warded off and then the three-match ban lifted, the controversy caused a big furore and at one time threatened the tour. The off-spinner is slated to file reply to the showcause notice by Monday. The latest controversy is the one the off-spinner should have avoided, particularly when his team Mumbai Indians playing without ace batsman and skipper Sachin Tendulkar has yet to register a win!


Board will not tolerate indiscipline: Pawar

New Delhi, April 26
The BCCI chief Sharad Pawar today warned Indian players that the Board will act tough against any incidence of indiscipline and will not be a mute spectator if anyone violates the code of conduct.

"My message to Indian players who have got contractual obligations with the Board that they have to honour each and every guideline about discipline which the Board has communicated to them, and they have accepted and signed," Pawar said.

The BCCI President was speaking after Harbhajan Singh was temporarily suspended from the Indian Premier League for allegedly slapping S Sreesanth.

"If somebody is going to violate them, the Board will not sit as a silent spectator," Pawar said. He said if there is any evidence of wrongdoing, swift action should be taken.

"If there is prima facie evidence, (IPL Commissioner Lalit) Modi should take action right now and they should give opportunity to both sides and take a final view.

"I told the BCCI secretary general to give notice to him (Harbhajan) and give him a specific time and opportunity and take a final decision on which we will take a decision separately on Monday," Pawar said.

"The IPL committee, I hope, will take a separate decision."

BCCI's Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty asserted that the BCCI "meant business" in this matter.

"We want to tell our players that discipline is equally important and not only their cricketing talent," he said.

Shetty said the Board had issued a letter to Harbhajan asking for his explanation with Monday evening as the deadline.

He mentioned a decision on the off-spinner's participation in the IPL and further disciplinary action for the alleged misconduct were two separate angles of the issue.

"This has never happened in Indian cricket when somebody physically assaulted another player. It is an extremely serious matter and we are dealing with it very seriously," he added. — PTI



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