Posted by: nestaquin | April 27, 2008

Karma, Tears & Dishonour

It was no surprise to learn that Harbhajan Singh has once again brought the noble game of cricket, his nation and his family’s good name into disrepute. Striking a combatant after a match, when hands should be shaken and respect shown regardless of the result and personal feelings, is a morally reprehensible act and if he escapes serious censure, as he did in Australia for racial vilification, then all the goodwill generated by the IPL for the people of India will evaporate as quickly as it has coalesced.

Like a spoilt child that always escapes punishment, Harbhajan has become a recidivist delinquent and if stern action with serious consequences is not delivered then expect worse behaviour in future. Make no mistake, the world was invited to watch the IPL and this is a test of character not only for the accused and the judiciary but also for Indian culture and society in general.

He is the captain of Mumbai in Tendulkar’s absence and I am truly flabbergasted at his immaturity, disrespect and example as a senior representative of the city and team. Perhaps, private enterprises with no history or tradition, built on sand instead of rock, which are an aberration within the cricketing family, fail to produce the required reverence for the high honour of representing your community in the fairest of spirited competition.

Spare a thought for the victim of his wrath and disrespect, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who wept openly after the violent snub. I doubt that it was the sting of a slap in the face that caused his tears but the shock and emotional embarrassment of being struck without warning by one of his national team-mates publicly. It obviously cut deep.

Sreesanth is no saint on the field yet by all reports he is a gentleman on the other side of the boundary and it is a mark of his congenial character that he has forgiven Harbhajan unconditionally. Despite the goodwill, I suspect, much like another of Harbhajan’s victims, Andrew Symonds, he just wishes it could all be forgotten as he now has to relive the incident time and time again as it is played out by the administration and the media in the weeks, months and years ahead.

It was obvious last summer that Harbhajan overstepped the line with his derogatory remarks about Andrew Symonds heritage and ancestry. That three separate excuses were offered proved conclusively his guilt. An innocent man only needs to offer one alibi. There were witnesses including Adam Gilchrist, a man of unquestionable honour, and a past history of the offence but because there was no conclusive audio or video evidence he was, under intense political pressure from the Indian press, public and administration, given a slap on the wrist. The smile on his face as he left the hearing in Adelaide was that of a guilty man who had evaded justice; arrogant, sly and without remorse.

Ancient Indian philosophical wisdom first recorded the human understanding of the universal law of karma. In Harbhajan Singh, it can be clearly seen that what you reap you sow. He has injured the game of cricket and its unique place among all sports as an outstanding game for conduct and fairness. Sure, it can be heated on the field and that can be forgiven but to physically abuse an opponent after the match is as serious a charge as one can imagine. Again, there is no technological evidence and one can only hope that in this instance Harbhajan will be punished severely and finally taught a lesson he sorely needs in understanding the meaning of respect, tradition and honour.


  1. I reckon that Andrew Symonds, and some of his Australian team-mates, have been vindicated by way of H. Singh’s ‘behaviour’ last night… there must be no tolerance of violence in cricket, perhaps the last of the major non-contact sports.
    If the BCCI let Singh off again, I’ll start watching something else. That is how strongly I feel about this incident. Thanks once again for an illuminating article.
    A sad day for cricket…

  2. It will be fascinating how the issue gets handled but I have a sneaky suspicion that the whole matter will be pushed under the carpet.Harbajan has a volatile temper and can easily get aroused.Indian cricketers in the past used to be perfect ambassodors on and off the field. Time has changed , it is a new era , bad behaviour has become acceptable .This is just one more episode.

  3. Fly, I am willing to allow the process to play out but if Harbhajan is not dealt with, like Toinette and many others I suspect, 99.94 in a Mahatma Ghandi inspired protest will be ignoring the IPL and moving on in the coming weeks to the more harmonious and greener pastures of the Caribbean and England.

  4. @Flyonthewall: the cynic in me fears you might be right – but the optimist in me prays otherwise…

  5. Symonds needs no vindication, nor does Hayden, or Pointing, for that matter , they called him right and never resiled from it, neither do I, it was only a matter of time before Harbhajan displayed his repulsive tendencies in an arena that exposed them comprehensively. He’s been a very lucky bloke for a very long time. And it was plain to see that every time he got away with it, he escalated. Even Tendulkar, who was happy to lie for him at the 2nd commission will find it difficult to squeeze a free pass yet again for this bloke. But then again, .. anything is possible. Harbhajan is a convicted serial obscene abuser, a fact often forgotten by those anxious to decry his persistant nonsense. … a slap to another player is par for the course and entirely predicatable. .

    I would hope his team mates in this competition get jacked off enough to refuse to play with him leading them. Now that would put the cat among the pigeons. Fines and censure , of which Harbhajan is far and away in front of the pack over all his international career are of no interest to Harbhajan. He pays them freely and is oblivious to the censure. Only the disdain of fellow cricketers may have the required effect.

  6. I’m puzzled by your suggestion that Harbhajan’s slap can be somehow linked to the basing of teams on private enterprises. You go on to talk about the Harbahajan incident in Australia. You could have talked about the time Harbhajan swore at Pietersen after Harbhajan refused to walk after being bowled.

    Surely the common thread amongst all this is Harbhajan’s obnoxious weed-ness, rather than what team he’s playing for.

  7. David, I was attempting to avoid personal insult, however accurate, but I do encourage the readers to take the long handle to the boy parading as a man in the turban.

    You are not alone as I often puzzle myself yet it did occur to me that many cricket clubs throughout the world began and grew as community organisations where representing your town, suburb, city, state, county, region or nation was an honour that required an understanding of representation. Perhaps these artificial teams and owners have little understanding that they and the players are not isolated entities but ambassadors for the people they deem to represent. His team is called Mumbai not Harbhajan United!

    A few years back a similar incident occurred in Launceston and the perpetrator was banned from competitive cricket for 20 years as an example to all. Nothing even remotely similar has happened since.

    I remember the incident in that ODI when KP bowled him with a yorker. I mentioned the Australian incident because it was the most recent and if we had a list of Harbhajan’s disgraceful antics I suspect it would make most of our Indian friends cringe in despair.

    He needs to be pulled into line right now for he is not only tarnishing his own image but that of Indian cricket while the entire cricketing world is watching.

  8. @pepp: I say ‘vindication’ only because of my reliance on sports reports in the UK, where there was negative commentary generated towards Ponting, Hayden and Symonds in particular, accusing them of double standards, provocation, whinging, not ‘taking it like a man’, etc. Also, I do not have satellite – so can only watch highlights from the W3b.
    In short, H. Singh was NOT presented as a serial abuser of his fellows – but as a world-class athlete (with questionable English language skills) under interminable pressure from those wily ‘win-at-all-costs’ dirty low-down sledgin’ Aussies (so to speak)…
    Now, thanks to Setanta’s coverage, I can see the best of the Australians for myself (Symonds picking his way around the Kolkata dust-bowl for those 32 precious runs last week was a revelation!)…
    I also note H. Singh’s excellent English – judging from the interviews!
    @David Barry – agreed 100%

  9. I agree with all the condemnation of Harbhajan for all the reasons stated in such measured terms above.

    But I wouldn’t boycott the IPL if Harbhajan gets another slap on the wrists. That would be to let one man (and what would be craven administrators in those circumstances) to determine my reaction to an enterprise involving hundreds.

    When age catches up with cricketers, there is a fellowship to replace the thrill of competiton. Harbhajan will find the phone calls not returned and the invitations few and far between. And that’s what he deserves.

  10. David – I’ll be interested to see how this plays out. As private enterprises seeking to maximise income, teams and the IPL have a strong incentive to capitalise on the publicity this incident will generate. That may be too tempting.

    I’d like to think that, even in these days, a governance rooted in committees, rather than shareholders / owners, would just throw harbhajan out of the tournament.

    The issue of ownership and finance does matter in this case and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

  11. Toots, I agree that the franchise etc. setup may have an impact on the punishment (or lack thereof) that Harbhajan gets, but I don’t think it’s had any effect on Harbhajan’s behaviour itself, which has been consistently bad.

  12. Obviously due to the considered and mature exchange with threat of protest here at 99.94 and the not inconsequential unveiling of video evidence by the broadcasters to match referee Farouk Engineer, Harbhajan has been suspended immediately and has been charged under the most severe ICC conduct code which has a minimum sentence of 10 ODIs or 5 Test matches and a maximum life ban.

    His hearing is held in Delhi on Monday. Curiously his franchise brazenly named his as captain for tomorrow’s match against Hyderabad but IPL guru Lalit Modi was having none of it.

    It remains to be seen if there will be an additional IPL suspension but I think Modi’s actions in suspending him forthwith may be an indication of Harbhajan’s fate.

  13. David – In so far as one can discern the workings of his mind, perhaps Harbhajan thought he could get away with it. If so, he wouldn’t be the first to believe that money and celebrity can excuse any behaviour.

    Nesta – That’s good news and a bit of leadership from Modi.

  14. I’m somewhat suprised to be unable to find the playing conditions for the IPL online. If the reporting is accurate, then presumably they’re following the ICC Code of Conduct, but the penalties would surely be suspensions from IPL matches, rather than international games. This is a domestic tournament, after all.

  15. David, the hearing on Monday was instigated by the BCCI as Harbhajan is a contracted Indian player and as such is bound by their code no matter who he is representing.

    The BCCI boss has indicated that he expects the IPL to take separate action as they cannot impose a penalty that stands for that competition.

    It would appear that he will be banned by his national board and by the IPL. We will know more after Monday but I think it is fair to say that finally the BCCI has had enough.

  16. Thanks for that, nesta.

  17. @Nesta: well! – I am pleased (and surprised) that action has been taken so promptly. Whether H. Singh’s attitude will change is another matter, but this move will surely help to nip other players’ ‘bad man’ antics in the bud!
    As both players represent their country, a swift response to this sad event was necessary to ‘send a clear message’ .
    Good news. Now I can continue watching Chennai v Kolkata highlights with a clear conscience(!)

  18. There is a bit of Kangaroo Karma in it happening to Sreesnanth, too, if I can be forgiven a small sudden scream of tutti frutti ‘vindication’ . Harbhajan instigated a summer of misery in AU and was the catalyst for unrivalled and extreme vilification of Ponting, Symonds, Hayden, anything Koala if it appeared convenient, and particularly in the English press , no surprise in that. Not that the AU press was much better, they’ll look fools tomorrow as well.

    The English press has a tremendous advantage over your average Eng. cricket fan in that 99% never get to see a match of any hue, shade or tint, not even their own team , since cricket went to Sky in England and are held hostage by the press as a consequence.

    I give Sreesnanth a tiny bit of credit, though.. after his repulsive gesturing and chanting at Symonds in India, he put his head down in Au this past summer and got on with his bowling.. I think he was a bit overawed by the MCG and 100,000 AU fans separated from him by good manners only. No fences, no dogs. Once he got a bit of a gig at how AU goes about it’s cricketing spectatorship he never said a dickybird or put a foot wrong.

    Toinette.. I giggled a bit at the sudden discovery that Harbs speaks English .. that was about the most preposterous claim by Indian and English bloggers and press at the time, and a measure of the determination to present Harbhajan as martyr..

    However , that said., it will be interesting to see how the BCCI deals with him, I think this is the first time it’s landed on their lap, his other adjudications have been at the hands of other national boards, I believe.

  19. Nesta,

    The evidence is clear. The ICC could do a lot worse than ask you to replace Malcolm Speed, and they undoubtedly will … do worse, that is :-))

    To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice (Confucius). Everybody knows the issues confronting cricket but those in a position to do something about them ….. do nothing.

  20. Ha Nesta – What a powerful force you are.A whiff of threat from you and the BCCI bending backwards.I am still having difficulty swallowing the suspension order of Harbajan.We are so good in burying many of the ills, I can only wonder whether commercial interest is bringing in saner actions!! Anyway, it is early days and as a born cynic I am entitled how the issue pans out.The jury is still out.

    One or two here is tutting how Aussie is unfairly painted a bad picture in the winter of discontent.I am always wary of people who are having vicarious pleasure in the opponants bad fate. A similarity is the “I told you so” attitude about latest escapade of Gazza.Harbajan is neither a devil nor the Aussies angles.There are plenty of brain muted players going about their job, some of them sadly in need of psychiatric attention.Sporting boards in various countries have been the culprits looking the other way when the first signs are spotted.

    I hope BCCI learns a lesson from this.

  21. Many of the so called sporting stars have immature brains.They have a sort of tunnel vision.History is replete with many talents withering away and some of them do not achieve eternal greatness.Some of the troubled minds achieve greatness because of the timely attention of an elder stateman.Take the case of Rooney.Had he been left to languish under Moyes ( I know Moyes is tough but he will not get the respect of Rooney) who knows what direction his career would have taken. Sir Alex I respect most among managers because of the way he makes talented players to focus on their game and not on external activities. I think BCCI will have to take the job of mentoring some of the kids in Indian cricket because these kids come out of difficult situations at home.They are not well rounded emotionally, timely rap on their knuckles will do a world of good.

  22. Luckily, the AU cricket world doesn’t make leeway for immature brains. It’s a tough world , the AU cricket world, tougher than most other sporting area’s, in the world of all sport, tougher even than the AU swimming world which is the toughest in the world of swimming, so that by the time one gets to play for AU, any immaturity has long since bit the dust.. There isnt enough time in AU cricket at the top for handholding.

    Au cricketers are not famous for coming out of featherbed situations at home either, but they get over that, too, and get their heads down and get on with the business.

    And it’s a good idea to mentor some kids in Indian cricket and all that, but Harbhajan is hardly a kid, a long term server in Indian cricket and a long term serial abuser ( ICC convicted) , and obscene abuser (ICC convicted) 5 or 6 convictions all up, with many a ‘timely rap’ being undermined by the BCCI and the Indian press and public over many many years.

    While the Indian /English press is a bit fixated on the idea that all Australia is giving a bit of an ironic snort of laughter after all the garbage thrown at AU cricketers ( and it’s probably true , I did give a bit of a snort myself) over Harbhajan, its just as true that South Africans, SriLankans etc are also. They all tried the ‘timely rap’ after a dose of Harbhajan’s outrageous viciousness and got nowhere with the vilifying of the Indian press and the refusal of the BCCI to deal with him, backing up Harbhajan waaay back, with the silly defence that ‘nobody is an angel, Harb isnt a devil, etc’, everybody lies about Harbhajan etc.. ….

    But the facts are that Harhajon is the ICC’s most convicted player, and this latest vileness was predictable, unsurprising and inevitable. Any attempt to wipe all this off as ‘ not well rounded emotionally ‘ is futile.

    His biggest problem is not whacking Sreesnanth ( that’s an Indian problem) but who he feels like whacking next. Time to pull the plug on Harbs before he wafts on with the idea that he could come out of a ‘bit of immaturity’ with someone of Oram’s size.

  23. (excuse my ‘ tut tutting’. . and the perception of my ‘vicarious pleasure in an opponents fate’, and all that hoo-haa. I exempt myself for the ‘I told you so’ stuff over Gazza, as I haven’t clue who or what a Gazza is. )

    “At the end of the day Mr Singh can feel himself fortunate that he has reaped the benefit of these database and human errors.”

    This was Justice Hansens considered opinion after Harbhajan’s lucky escape in AU. And it’s pretty obvious that Harbhajan considered himself not only fortunate but invincible against censure and complaint. Reaping the benefit of the ICC’s error in not reporting his 4 previous convictions, Harbhajan has taken the ‘lucky me’ route and shrugged off any thought of taking a long look at his chain of ‘ immaturity’.

    But it’s highly possible that the BCCI, habitually adminstering a light tap on Harbhajon’s knuckles for offences in cricket that are beyond the pale, will do the same in this instance and in so doing , will be the laughing stock of the cricket world. Again.

    ( just for the memories)

    A timely reminder that Sachin Tendulkar knew very well of Harbhajan’s prior convictions, yet chose to lie to Justice Hanson, and portray him as a man set about with detractors ( Symonds, Hayden, Ponting) who would happily lie just out of sheer perverseness about the ‘angel’ Harbhajan.

    Hansen said the ICC told him Harbhajan had only one prior offence but after he had handed down his penalty, he discovered the Indian spinner had four previous offences.

    The most serious of those offences occurred in South Africa in 2001 when Harbhajan was given a suspended sentence for showing dissent and trying to influence an umpire.

    “If I had been aware of the serious transgression in November 2001 I would have required more extensive submissions as to the offence in mitigation which could have led to a different penalty,” Hansen wrote in his 49-page judgement released on Wednesday.

    Hansen said that as soon as he became aware of the mistake, he began reviewing the code of conduct of laws to see whether he could change Harbhajan’s penalty, but discovered he was powerless to act.

    “Regrettably I have concluded that I cannot do so and the penalty imposed by me must stand,” he said.

  24. Pepp – I appreciate your passion for cricket especially Aussie cricket.Flag waving is a good pastime , no harm in that. We are talking about talented cricketers who are otherwise brain deficient.Harbajan like Shoaib is an exciting talent but focussed in wrong direction. Had the respective boards have been more responsible, these behavioural traits could have been corrected. I think enough effort has not been made to straighten confused brains.Had they done so and with all the effort , the talented crickets continue to misbehave, then the final solution is to banish them for ever.In the case of Harbajan atleast, many in the association looked the other way. This is my take on the issue.

  25. as I indeed appreciate your passion in flagwaving for Indian cricketing behaviour, Fly. A pastime riddled with events , no harm in it, though..

    Appreciation of your determination to to float this event as a momentary abberation of Harb, too, as something that can be fixed by exactly what, I dont know. This is a hard task you have set yourself and I wish you luck in it. Facts, however, make it a tad difficult.

    We may be talking about ‘brain deficient’ people with a talent for cricket, really. That is most likely the case more than the other way round. The point is, that the ‘brain deficiency’ of Harbhajan has been obvious, reported and convicted when it’s outcome is too repulsive to deny, been denied, and others pointed out as liars and cheats for maintaining their accusations until finally he steps over a mark that is abhorrent to any cricket fan and player.

    I don’t think it’s cricket’s job to straighten out confused brains that have no intention of being so straightened. Harbhajan has evidenced no determination to be straightened out at all and especially after his ‘lucky break’ in AU, you’d think he would pull himself up, but no. It’s cricket’s job to keep them away from any arena permanently. Let the world on the streets take care of them.

  26. Harbhajan might be banned for 10 matches. But I wonder if that will improve his mental condition or worsen it.

  27. @bubbleonfire: like you, I doubt if H. Singh will change his ways just because of any ban. I don’t know whether he has any mental issues as such, though. He might just be a bully.
    But in any case, players need to know that they have NO RIGHT to abuse ANYONE physically on the field of play!
    @pepp: you are quite correct. Poor cricket fans in the UK such as myself are reliant upon biased, inaccurate reporting – especially if we don’t have Sky (or broadband). Nonetheless, ‘truth will out’. I have the IPL (+ Nesta and yourself) to thank for that.

  28. See

    More than minimum, but not much.

  29. It’s the rest of the IPL season minus the semis and final. The national board will be deciding his fate internationally and reports from insiders in India are suggesting a similar ban with a provision for some sort of counselling.

    I wonder if he is contrite or angry at his fate?

  30. I suspect he’s bemused. He’s been an international since he was 18 I think, so this dose of reality might be his first as the other suspensions barely registered.

    Counselling might help, but he should look Vinod Kambli up on cricinfo for a career tossed away.

  31. You will find this chat interesting

  32. But he is now a marked man. His idiocies are now very public, and I doubt if he could rock up to another enquiry into his exploits with a forged clean sheet ( courtesy of the ICC) like he did to Justice Hansens commision.

    What he does next will be well and truly documented by what he has done 6 times before, so it’s a huge challenge to Harbhajan to rise above that, and he is so easily provoked ( according to him, a slight drooping of an eyebrow is enough) that he is fair game to practially any other cricketer out there with an eye on doing Harbhajan in for a variety of reasons. And cricketers at any level from anywhere have their ways..

    Which I.. not claiming to be Mother Theresa , look forward to.

  33. Seems he’ll only be paid for the first two games of the IPL – that’s a lot of rupees he’ll be missing.

  34. Your spot on Pepp. Every action will now be scrutinised and if he steps out of line again he’ll be crucified.

    Despite its apparent success the IPL still craves credibility and I think that Harbhajan’s suspension from the tournament shows that.

    I’m not sure how the main body can prevent his franchise paying him but I do know one thing. The BCCI are not going to show any leniency when that hearing is held in a fortnight or so.

  35. Fly, I reckon that Sanjay Manjrekar’s thoughts on the end of that link should be the path that the BCCI takes. Not just for Indian cricket but for the players involved too.

  36. I’m with Nesta on believing that Sanjay Manjrekar’s thoughts are wise ones. Interesting point about Irfan Pathan who seems a very decent sort despite all the star player attention he received. Ishant looks like he’s handling it well – with just a little over-agrression which one can forgive in a teenage quickie.

  37. Bhaji is a very naughty boy but if there is one Indian cricketer that needs a slap it is Sree Santh. I thought the nonsense in Sydney was name-calling par excellence and he took on the big Queensland potty mouths which was good to see.

  38. I rather agree with Bushnumpty there – Sree is a bit if a prima donna… a slap is only a slap for goodness sakes. and eleven games is it….
    crikey big bad bustler only got seven for fully ironing a sandgroper…

    then again maybe that spinner fellow needs a little ironing out and this might help him…
    ironing or weeding, either way…

    the ironic thing is that he keeps getting Heydon out which must be a test for the big bloke’s commitment to being calm and focussed…

    anyhow bye bye bhaji for now and lets hope he never mends his ways… I rather enjoy the way he curdles the milk every time he touches it… tests the system.

  39. well.. actually, Sreesanth , neither in Sydney, nor in Melbourne nor anywhere else in AU ‘took on the big QLD potty mouths’ at all.. He only had enough nerve to do it in front of a home crowd in India. God knows where anyone can get the idea that Sreesnanth was blowing smoke in AU. Once he got to Melbourne, and Sydney etc, he folded like a chinese fan, all fluttery. Not a boo out of Sreesanth in AU at all. He knew the score. When he walked out on to the MCG for the 20/20 ( India lost by a mile) he about died of awe. He actually was stopped in his tracks , took a look around and did the big gulp. He just put his head down and got on with his bowling, which was not bad, but not spectacular, and kept his mouth well and truly shut for the entire tour he had in AU.

    Not a word, not a gesture, not a damn thing. Wonder why. Could it be that between him and 100,000 good mannered AU fans there was nothing? no fences, no dogs, no lathi wielding cops.. just a determination from AU fans for Sreesanth to get some idea of where he fits in,. And credit to him, he got the picture straight away and kept his stupidity in the suitcase.

    And while a slap is just a slap, as time goes by, it is possible that Harby could get the idea that he could spread the joy around. I’d like to see how far the South Africans would take it should he decide to so favour Morkel with a bit of a whack.

    Even Vaughan could emerge from his coma if Harby took a swipe at Little Bell. It’s possible. That is, it is not improbable. I don’t think jellybeans would be the business at that stage.

  40. Nice to see you round these parts Doc.

    If Harbharjan would have smacked Sreenath in the carpark or dressing room then that probably wouldn’t be such a big deal but at the end of the match, in every sporting arena, the handshake is sacrosanct.

    He is paying a huge financial whack in anyone’s currency and I’d like to see the money given to charity. If he was bright and compassionate enough to at least suggest it then maybe he could avoid a similar ban from the BCCI.

  41. Hey Nesta
    Nice site well laid out, easy to read and good articles.
    I think re Harbi that Pepp is right that he slipped away virtually unpunished here but has been caught out with his ridiculous unsporting behaviour.
    Farouk Engineer the old hard man brought in to calm the waters gets the two together for the press and Harbi seemed to lapping it all up.

    Notoriety for idiocy rather than fame for skill.

    He is a spoiler and probably the worst thing for Indian cricket, but lets hope they keep him in the test side as he will be their archilles heel for years to come.

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