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.