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Luckless Harbhajan Continues To Suffer At Home And Abroad

By Orin Davidson
January 18th, 2008

Harbhajan Singh has more than one reason to consider himself one of the most luckless players to represent India in recent times.

He has proven himself one of their best spin bowlers but cannot hold down a permanent place in the team.

Now he finds himself at the receiving end of one of the most absurd decisions made by any match referee ever.

Unlike the man who the India selectors should’ve paired as his spin twin by now – Anil Kumble, Harbhajan is an ebullient individual who is more outspoken, outgoing and the most likely of all the Indians to take on the Australians at their own sledging game.

And now when he did just that, Harbhajan incredulously faces a three- match ban for retaliating to Andrew Symonds’ taunt in that acrimonious Sydney Test match.

Symonds was honest enough to admit that he started the fight which went on and on until Singh uttered the monkey word.

Ricky Ponting ever the typical Australian, did what is expected of any player from his country by reporting the matter to match referee Mike Proctor, but which it is certain would not have been thought about by any other team captain in the world.

You should be able to take as much as you give and Australia has proven time and again again they are like the typical bully. Ponting ran to complain, in a reaction similar to the behavior of many Australians when Glen McGrath insulted Ramnaresh Sarwan five years ago, and they all thought the West Indian was the bad boy after he retaliated in the most jarring way.

Similarly when Australians are the recipients of umpiring mistakes they behave as the wounded party when the said errors go against them.

Harbhajan labeled Symonds a monkey which in itself is not a literal racist taunt. He did not include the “black” to the monkey, which in that case would’ve been downright racist and in itself would justify the furor and the ridiculous ban imposed on the Indian off spinner.

Perhaps Ponting, Procter and all the aggrieved Australians are being carried away by the slight the monkey inference is causing in European soccer. The “monkey chant” in the stadiums of Spain and other parts of Europe are considered the gravest insult to black players.

Symonds being the lone black player in the Australia team made situation seem more serious than it actually is, in Proctor’s eyes.

But then again Ponting was probably reacting to a solitary incident when Australia toured India in October when a similar type monkey chant was directed at Symonds by the crowd during one game.

Were Harbhajan’s insult directed to a player from any other team, it would’ve classified a more serious act, but given it is Australia who have made sledging one of their weapons for winning, you have to judge the Indian’s retort for what it is – a player fighting fire with fire.

Australians have committed many a disparaging act and grave dishonest behavior in the past, but none have ever been banned.

Singh who has never before had cause to direct his monkey insult to any player from the West Indies, Zimbabwe or any other team with black players, took things into his own hands, but he is now discovering that double standards are the rule rather than the exception when International Cricket Council (ICC) match referees adjudicate.

The fact that the (ICC) caved in to the objections by the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCC) is indicative of the dysfunctional operations of the world ruling body.

The appeal on Harbhajan’s penalty has been pushed back after the series to accommodate the player being eligible to play in the remaining matches of India’s schedule in Australia.

It makes Proctor’s ruling seem ineffective. Yet had the Indians not raised hell, Harbhajan would’ve out of the remainder of the series. Spineless is a mild term to describe Malcolm Speed’s handling of world cricket affairs on behalf of the ICC.

Once the money powerful BCCI opens its mouth CEO Speed gets down on his knees to kiss toes.

On the other hand, the BCCI would’ve better served had it given Singh that level of support as a player in the national team all these years.

Had he been regarded as one of the team’s permanent bowlers, he would’ve been a much more accomplished bowler than his 255 Test wickets at 31 average suggests now.

The powers that be in India have never seen Harbhajan as a special talent.
Although he has the best record for a spinner against Australia, the world’s best team by a long way.

Presently Ponting can be considered the world’s number one batsman but he is a dunce to Harbhajan. From the time he cleaned up the Australian captain almost every time while bagging that staggering 32 wicket haul in that famous 2-1 series win for India in 2001, Singh should’ve been groomed to become their trump card.

Even as Harbhajan has continued to make Ponting his bunny on the current tour, he finds himself out of the present third Test at Perth.

Perth is considered a paceman’s paradise but India has no reserve fast bowler in the squad more effective than Singh to make an impact there.

But then again, Harbhajan does not have the connections of a Saurav Ganguly. He has come this far with a deceased father and five sisters which is not a recipe for favors in India.

The fact that India are likely to win in Perth will not brighten Singh’s chances for the future.

You have to wonder why the BCCI went out of its way to fight Procter’s ban on the off- spinner in the first place.

Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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