Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 18, Dated May 10, 2008
Slap And Tickle
and Sreesanth have a history of abuse and both could be in deep trouble,
says SHANTANU GUHA RAY
AFTER slapping Sreesanth after a match on April 25, which led to his being
booted out of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Harbhajan Singh asked teammates:
“For how long did the channel show the footage?” On being told the total
duration of the footage — a shaken, weeping Sreesanth being consoled by
members of Punjab Kings XI — was approximately 32 seconds, he turned to
team manager Lalchand Rajput and asked him to speak to the crew of Transworld
International (TWI) that had been covering the match with 25 cameras and
a band of experts.
“He wanted the audio
recording of the pitch and was told, the audio at the batsman’s end is
always on a high and on the other side on a low,” a top TWI producer told
TEHELKA. Singh’s chances of picking up what many claim were rank filthy
abuses hurled by Sreesanth were drowned.
“We saw Sreesanth
saying something to Harbhajan during the post-match handshake and then
the slapping incident happened, but there was no chance the recorders
would pick that up because the pitch recorders were off once the match
was over,” the producer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The hotheaded cricketer
— fined six times by the International Cricket Council for conduct violations
and once described by cricket columnist Peter Roebuck as an intemperate
Sikh warrior — was banned for 11 IPL matches and fined over Rs 2.16 crore.
He has lost another Rs 1 crore in endorsements. This incident comes just
months after his skirmish with Andrew Symonds in the Sydney Test, where
he escaped a racism charge due to lack of evidence.
At this point, no
one is siding with the temperamental Sikh. His team’s management has removed
Mumbai Indians posters featuring him, fearing a public backlash. Harbhajan’s
name has also been removed from the team list in the franchise squad’s
website, www.themumbaiindians. com. This is the second time Singh’s
images are being removed from publicity posters; the first time was when
he drew flak from the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee for featuring
in a liquor ad, minus his turban, two years ago.
However, this does
not signal the end of the journey for Singh. “We will abide by the BCCI
(Board for Control of Cricket in India) decision but we expect a lot more
news to come out when the final hearing takes place,” says Mumbai Indians
top manager and cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle. Advocate Sudhir Nanavati,
appointed commissioner by the BCCI for a preliminary inquiry into the
slapping incident, is expected to wrap up the proceedings within two weeks.
deliberations are in full swing. Mumbai Indians’ skipper Tendulkar, who
missed the first four matches because of a groin injury, had two rounds
of discussion with Singh who explained what provoked the slap. Initial
guesswork — even Lalchand Rajput is not aware of Sreesanth’s remarks —
revolves around a cryptic comment about being a loser at home. Insiders
and witnesses close to the boundary line at Mohali agreed that Sreesanth
excessively used the Hindi word for a******e.
Sources said Sachin
Tendulkar witnessed the diatribe and was upset but chose not to press
charges. “If Tendulkar had pressed charges, the scenario would’ve been
different. We have been losing badly, match after match, and just didn’t
have the right frame of mind to raise the issue with the match referee.
We should’ve done so,” said a top official of Reliance Industries, which
backs the team.
Top sources in the
BCCI told TEHELKA that Yusuf Pathan of the Rajasthan Royals could press
charges against Sreesanth for abuse in an earlier match. Musavir Khote,
the last Mumbai Indian bowled out by Sreesanth, is being told by his team
management to testify. Umpires Amiesh Saheba and Aleem Dar, who’ve made
their displeasure about Sreesanth’s sledging clear, could also testify.
Mohammed Kaif could also be called to testify since Sreesanth had made
faces at him in a match. Interestingly, the only match in which Sreesanth
kept his cool was the one against Chennai Super Kings. Was it because
it had Team India captain MS Dhoni?
No one has the answer.
But it is clear that both temperamental cricketers are in deep trouble.
“Both are abusive. I’ve seen Sreesanth — he was once a crybaby — abuse
AB de Villiers for almost a minute,” quipped South African coach Mickey
Arthur. He also recalled an incident at Kanpur where Harbhajan abused
Ashwell Prince. “Match referee Roshan Mahanama held a hearing and Harbhajan
had to apologise to Prince.”
ESPN-Star Sports commentator
Gautam Bhimani agrees: “Sledging is commonplace in cricket but hitting
out is incomprehensible. Singh had no business getting into this mess.”
ESPN-Star Sports staffers
recall how Sreesanth once tossed the ball to the camera and said, “Watch
it, man, I will play for India.” They also remember how Singh kicked chairs
after he was detected with a hairline facture in his middle finger (a
fact he’d hidden from the team management) and was told to pack his bags
and leave for India. That was in the past, but the present seems to be
no different for Indian cricket’s two loose cannons.