ICC clears Harbhajan Singh of fresh Sydney charges (Lead)

March 3rd, 2008 - 7:59 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, March 3 (IANS) The International Cricket Council has cleared Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh of reportedly making monkey gestures and spitting at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) crowd during India’s sensational win in the first of the three-match finals against Australia Sunday. ICC match referee Jeff Crowe said there was no need to take action against the Indian spinner following reports in the Fairfax newspapers that Harbhajan had motioned to scratch his armpits and spat towards taunting spectators at the SCG.

“I have investigated the alleged incident with Cricket Australia’s ground security officials after reading newspaper reports and viewing related photographs that have been published. After reviewing all available information, I conclude that there is no need to take any action against Harbhajan Singh,” Crowe said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, the Indian cricket team management had strongly condemned media reports which said: “More Harbhajan monkey madness” and The Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times, which said: “Harbhajan in hot water again, up to his armpits”.

Standing by the spinner, team manager Bimal Soni said the bowler had done nothing wrong.

“I think it is wrong. Nothing has been done like that. They are making a mountain out of a molehill. He did nothing. These stories, I do not believe them and I strongly condemn them,” he said.

The latest sledging row in this very controversial tour was not distracting the winning Indian team as they arrived in Brisbane to play the second of the best of three finals at the Gabba Tuesday.

“We do not talk about it. We only talk about the cricket on the field and we do not want to talk about these things.”

“This is the imagination of the Australian press, which has been trying to add pressure on Harbhajan at every moment,” Soni told a cricket website.

Harbhajan was banned for three Tests after Australian players gave evidence that he called all-rounder Andrew Symonds a monkey during the second Test at the SCG in early January. His charge was reduced to a fine on appeal.

The monkey talk began at the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai last October when four Indian fans were ejected for making monkey gestures at Symonds.

Not just the Indian team management, but former Australian captain Allan Border has also come to Harbhajan’s defence.

“I was over that side of the ground and Harbhajan was copping a fair bit of stick from the crowd. I didn’t notice any gestures at all and I thought he handled himself pretty well. I am not so sure how serious it is,” Border said.

Border was quoted in the media as saying that it was a shame that a great century by Tendulkar was being overshadowed by “a few bits of silliness in the outfield. It’s not a big deal”.

Meanwhile, a Cricket Australia spokesman said: “We have not seen anything that we think warrants further action and have not received any complaints.”

Australia’s Michael Hussey, who took one of the most brilliant catches of the series to remove Robin Uthappa Sunday, also told the media that both Indian and Australian cricket fans were tired of this controversy.

“I think the Australian and Indian public have had enough of all the controversy. We just want to concentrate on the cricket,” Hussey said.

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